Hamas rocket barrages on southern Israel continued Sunday with almost 300 projectiles launched at Israel since Saturday.
The IDF and Hamas continued to trade blows with each other over the Shavuot holiday, with large areas of Israel’s South under rocket attack and the Israel Air Force bombing numerous Islamist targets in the Gaza Strip.
Senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander Hasam Abu Harbid was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon.
The IDF said that Abu-Harbid, who was killed in a joint operation with the Shin Bet intelligence agency, had commanded the northern Gaza Strip division of PIJ since 2019 when his predecessor Baha abu el-Atta was killed in a targeted assassination by the IDF.
Abu-Harbid, who had been a dominant operative in the terrorist group for the past 15 years, was behind the shooting and launching of rockets and anti-tank guided missiles that wounded Israeli civilians.
Following his killing, a salvo of rockets were launched towards Israeli communities near the border as well as Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Malachi and Beersheba. One home sustained a direct hit in Ashdod and three people were lightly wounded.
IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman told reporters that shortly after the killing of Abu-Harbid, the military targeted a car near the Gazan beach in the northern sector of the Strip where operatives were preparing to launch an autonomous submersible naval vessel.
“We recognized preparations for a maritime attack,” Zilberman said, adding that the vessel had been brought down to the beach and was on its way to carry out “a terror attack in Israeli waters” when it was struck and totally destroyed. Several operatives who had been in the car were killed.
The IAF also hit hundreds of kilometers of Hamas’s “Metro” underground tunnel network for the third time early in the morning on Monday. Striking 15 km. of what it called the “C” line, the attack was “part of a broad operation by the IDF to significantly damage the underground system of terror organizations in Gaza,” it said.
The attack included 54 fighter jets that dropped some 110 precision munitions on 35 targets in 20 minutes.
On Friday, the IAF launched strikes in “Phase B” against the Metro under north, western and central Gaza with dozens of planes and some 100 precision munitions.
According to the spokesman, Hamas has spent tens of millions of dollars on constructing this strategic asset.
“Every meter of the tunnel cost around $500, [so] one kilometer cost half a million dollars,” he said. “You can imagine what else they could have spent the money on.”
IAF jets also hit 14 residences they claim belonged to high-ranking Hamas commanders that were used as terror infrastructure and to store weapons. The homes that were hit included those of the Beit Hanun battalion commander and of company commanders in Beit Hanun, the Sabra battalion in Gaza City and the Shati battalion.
The IAF on Monday evening also struck the main operations center of the group’s internal security forces in the Rimal neighborhood, which served as a “base for military intelligence operatives,” the IDF said.
The air force also struck military infrastructure used for command and control in the home of a Hamas operative responsible for military intelligence in Shejaia.
The IDF also destroyed a tunnel in southern Gaza, the entrance to which was built near a kindergarten.
“This once again proves how Hamas purposely builds its military assets in the heart of civilian populations,” the military said, adding that the “IDF has taken precautions to ensure minimizing damage to civilian population.”
As the rocket launches continued, the IAF on Sunday also destroyed the homes of Gaza Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and his brother Muhammad, who is in charge of logistics and manpower for Hamas, which “serve as significant terror infrastructure,” the IDF said in a statement.
The IAF carried out airstrikes against several other homes, as well as the offices of the Hamas political bureau’s planning and development head Samah Sarag, the residence of the commander of the Hamas Zeitun Battalion in Gaza City Youssef Abel-Wahab, and the residence of senior Hamas military intelligence official Ahmad Abd El Aal.
Dozens of weapon factories and storage sites in Tzabrah tel Aloha, Sheikh Amodan and Gaza City were struck as well. The military says that those sites were located in the homes of Hamas naval and airborne operatives, anti-tank squads and offensive cyber units.
THE IDF spokesperson on Sunday deflected criticism of the military’s actions in the Gaza Strip, particularly the Saturday bombing of the Al Jala building housing foreign media offices.
“I want to see what would happen if one rocket was fired on Washington. They are firing salvos toward civilian populations,” Zilberman said when asked about the strike on the building that was home to the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera in Gaza.
“We are in the middle of an operation. If Hamas and PIJ think they can hide behind the media, their buildings are not something they can hide behind,” he said.
The IDF said the building held the offices of Hamas’s military intelligence as well as other offices belonging to Islamic Jihad. It has refused requests to reveal the evidence upon which it determined that Hamas was using the office building for terrorist activity, although it said that the US was shown the evidence and reportedly accepted it.
Zilberman said that the military will continue its strikes in the coming days, including the multi-barreled rocket launchers that are being used to launch salvos towards the Jewish state.
The IDF has hit 40-45 of these launchers, which can fire between four and nine medium and long-range rockets every second.
While the IAF has begun to take out these launchers over the past 36 hours, the Israeli public won’t see its results for some time, Zilberman said.
Expecting the fighting to continue for several more days, he warned the Israeli public to continue to seek shelter when rocket sirens are activated.