March 12, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF targets Hamas leaders in Gaza

March 12, 2024 | FDD's Long War Journal

IDF targets Hamas leaders in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces said on March 11 that it had targeted “senior terrorist leaders” in Gaza with an airstrike that took place overnight between March 10 and 11. Among those targeted is Marwan Issa, the deputy of Mohammad Deif, who commands the Hamas “military wing.” Issa, like Deif, is an illusive and key figure in Hamas. The strike comes as Hamas continues to take a hard line on hostage talks and has appeared to utilize the beginning of Ramadan as a bargaining chip to pressure Israel into agreeing to a longer ceasefire in Gaza.

IDF spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing on the evening of March 11 that a joint operation between the Israeli Security Agency and IDF led to a strike by IDF warplanes on an “underground compound of Hamas leaders in the center of the Gaza Strip in the Nuseirat area.” Nuseirat is in central Gaza and is one of the areas where many Hamas members operated from during the October 7 attack. It is home to its own Hamas battalion, and Israel has accused a number of Hamas members linked to UNRWA of being from this area.

Although the IDF has operated in these areas, many of the areas in what is known as the “central camps” area of Gaza remain outside of IDF control. These areas are called the “central camps” because they form four major urban areas that grew up around refugee camps established in the 1950s. The IDF’s 646th Reserve Brigade operated in Nuseirat in early February, and the 188th armored brigade operated between Nuseirat and Bureij in January. On October 24, the IDF said it eliminated Abed Alrahman, the deputy commander of the Nuseirat Hamas battalion. The IDF has targeted Hamas members here and in Deir Al-Balah, but it appears Hamas continues to have a significant presence in this area as well as in Rafah near the border with Egypt.

According to Hagari, the strike that took place overnight between March 10 and 11 targeted “Marwan Issa, who is the deputy of Mohammad Deif and one of the planners of the October 7th massacre. Marwan Issa is part of the central terror triangle in the Gaza Strip, which also includes Mohammad Deif and Yahya Sinwar.” A luxury house in Bureij, Gaza allegedly belonging to Issa was raided by the IDF in early January.

The IDF said that the compound struck between March 10 and 11 included other key terrorists. For example, Aziz Abu Tama’a, “formerly the commander of the Central Camps Brigade” was alleged to be present. He is in charge of Hamas’ arsenal, the IDF said. “We are still assessing the results of the strike and have not yet received final confirmation – this is due to the underground nature of the target and the complexity of verification for various intelligence reasons. When we know for certain – we will inform and update the public,” Hagari said. He also said that intelligence indicated there were no Israeli hostages held at the site. There are 132 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Some have been declared deceased by Israel based on intelligence and other information gathered since October 7.

It is often assumed that Hamas leaders keep hostages in close proximity to their physical location in order to use them as human shields to protect themselves from possible strikes. The IDF has found evidence that hostages were held in tunnels in Khan Younis where Hamas battalion and brigade commanders operated and where Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is thought to be located.

While top Hamas leaders have often survived Israeli strikes in the past, some of them have then moved abroad to places like Qatar. Although those Hamas leaders abroad likely assume they are safe, Hamas official Salah al-Arouri was killed in Lebanon in January 2024.

Reporting from Israel, Seth J. Frantzman is an adjunct fellow at FDD and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. He is the acting news editor and senior Middle East correspondent and analyst at The Jerusalem Post. 


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Military and Political Power