IDF kills top Islamic Jihad members

Destruction of tunnels reaches conclusion; almost 90 rockets fired at Israel from Gaza; senior army source says 400,000 Gazans are internally displaced.

Israeli soldiers arrive at a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli soldiers arrive at a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Despite the flurry of diplomatic efforts to forge a cease-fire, Operation Protective Edge continued unabated on Monday with the IDF striking more than 60 terrorist targets in Gaza, and targeting several senior Islamic Jihad operatives in air strikes.
The army was expected to complete the destruction of the last of Hamas’s tunnels during the day.
On Monday morning, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF carried out a joint strike that killed Ibrahim Mashawari, an Islamic Jihad battalion commander in the Sheikh Radwan region, and seriously wounded senior Islamic Jihad members Amar Arhim, a deputy brigade commander.
They were in a structure in the Shati region of Gaza.
The Shin Bet said Arhim orchestrated rocket fire on central Israel, and is a key figure in planting underground launchers and weapons manufacturing.
Arhim took in terrorist attacks such as the attack on the fuel depot at the Karni crossing to the northeastern Gaza Strip in 2008, which killed two Israeli civilians.
In an additional joint IDFShin Bet strike, the air force attacked a building in Jabalya and killed Danian Mantsur, an Islamic Jihad brigade commander in northern Gaza, who was hiding there. The Shin Bet said Mantsur headed the organization’s intelligence portfolio, and directed rocket fire at Israel.
The air force also struck a terrorist in southern Gaza on Monday morning.
From midnight on Sunday to 10 p.m. on Monday, Gazans fired 86 rockets and mortar shells into Israel, the IDF Spokesman’s Office said, adding that the Iron Dome system intercepted five of the rockets.
Sixty-three projectiles hit within Israel, and at least one soldier was hurt by shrapnel from a shell that struck near the border with Gaza.
Earlier in the day, one person was lightly wounded in the Sdot Negev region.
Meanwhile, a senior army source said the reality of civilian life in Gaza “is very difficult,” adding that more than 400,000 civilians had become internally displaced.
Some 250,000 have taken shelter in UN facilities such as schools, while others are staying with relatives or in public buildings such as mosques.
Power shortages are frequent, and Gaza’s sole power plant, which was damaged in the war, will require months of repair, the source said.
“We are working every day to fix downed power lines [that connect the Israel Electric Corporation’s Ashkelon power plant to the Strip],” the source said. Hospitals in Gaza are near full capacity, but remain functional.
There is no food shortage.
“From day one of the conflict, we have kept crossings open for humanitarian goods to enter Gaza. It wasn’t like this in past clashes. We kept Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings open, and 1,850 trucks full of assistance entered Gaza,” the source said.
Two planes – one American and one Italian – carrying humanitarian assistance for Gaza have landed in Israel, and the IDF is transferring their content into the Strip.
Hamas is preventing Gazans from gaining access to any Israeli aid, the source said. The hospital opened by the IDF at Erez served a but fewer than 50 injured and sick Palestinians, who defied Hamas’s ban and arrived at the medical center, where they were cared for by army doctors and nurses.
Throughout the conflict, officers from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit sought to help Gazan civilians, the source said.
These efforts included the rescue of a disabled woman and an autistic boy from battle zones. “This was done under fire, as our soldiers were being killed and injured,” the source said.
In recent days, Hamas has fired many mortar shells from near schools, mosques and medical centers, banking on the fact that Israel will either not respond, or will fire back and draw international condemnation, the source added.
Despite its tactics, “Hamas has been very heavily damaged. Even if it has one member left, he will declare victory,” said the source.
Hamas continues to cover up its casualties, and many of its members lie dead in tunnels attacked by Israel, the source said. The IDF and intelligence services are working together to ascertain how many Palestinian combatants have been killed.
The IDF has set up a control room at the Erez crossing to the northern Gaza Strip, which coordinates humanitarian relief efforts with UNRWA and the Red Cross, the source said. In recent days, the IDF facilitated the entrance of dozens of Palestinian doctors and nurses from the West Bank and east Jerusalem into Gaza.
“We are watching the humanitarian situation closely, and seeking to avoid a deterioration of the situation,” he said.
Ben Harman contributed to this report.