Israeli Navy deploys advanced Sa’ar 6 warship in Eilat after continued Houthi attacks from Yemen; Israeli military: 100,000 Lebanese have evacuated Southern Lebanon.
The Israel Defense Forces announced on Tuesday that it had retrieved and identified the bodies of an Israeli civilian and a soldier in the Gaza Strip abducted by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.
After working with forensic and medical experts, IDF and Israel Police officials informed the families of Eden Zakaria and Sgt. Maj. Ziv Dado about the recovery of their bodies.
Eden, 27, was abducted from the Re’im music festival, and Ziv, 36, a logistics supervisor in the Golani Brigade’s 51st Battalion, had been previously recognized as a fallen soldier in captivity. The IDF extended condolences to their families and vowed to continue supporting them.
The operations leading to the discovery of these bodies also witnessed the loss of IDF reservists Master Sgt. Gal Meir Eizenkot, 25, and Master Sgt. Eyal Meir Berkowitz, 28. Additional soldiers were injured during these operations. The IDF has stated that it is committed to the national mission to locate the missing and return all hostages home, with the military employing various intelligence and operational methods.
IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated that the bodies were rescued by an IDF force from Gazan territory. He described Eizenkot and Berkowitz as heroes of Israel who fell in the defense of Israel, adding that they secured the perimeter of the operation in Gaza.
“The fighting is continuing in the main centers of gravity of Hamas—Khan Yunis Jabalia and Shajiaya, over and underground,” said Hagari. “This is complex fighting, including face-to-face combat against Hamas terrorists coming out of [tunnel] shafts. We locate them in homes, and we engage and kill them. Our fighters locate, engage them, and take them on and kill them. That’s how we will defeat Hamas in its centers of gravity,” said Hagari.
Thwarted attempts against Israel’s maritime assets
Meanwhile, the Israeli Navy announced on Tuesday that it had deployed one of its most advanced warships, the Sa’ar 6-class INS Magen, to the Red Sea city of Eilat for the first time.
“Simultaneously, the missile ships of the Israeli Navy are continuing to operate in the Red Sea, according to the situational assessment and as part of enhanced defensive efforts,” the IDF stated.
The announcement came a day after an anti-ship cruise missile fired from an area in Yemen controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists struck a commercial vessel in the Bab al-Mandab Strait on Monday night, the U.S. military announced on Tuesday morning.
The attack caused a fire and damage but no casualties.
Since the war’s inception, the Israeli Navy’s Missile Ship Flotilla and Naval Security Squadron have been highly active, the IDF said, striking numerous targets and supporting ground forces. They have eliminated many terrorists, including key figures in Hamas’s naval forces, which specialize in maritime attacks, it added.
This event marks the completion of operational processing for the Sa’ar 6 series, enhancing Israel’s naval combat capabilities.
The Israeli Navy, in collaboration with various units, including intelligence and operational headquarters, has successfully thwarted attempts to attack Israel’s strategic maritime assets and coastlines using unmanned underwater vessels, according to the military.
Alongside this activity, the operational processing of the fourth and final ship of the Sa’ar 6 series was completed, said the IDF, meaning that in a little over two years, “a very rapid pace,” four Sa’ar 6 ships completed the process of installing and adapting advanced combat systems and state-of-the-art Israeli systems, the IDF said.
Hezbollah attacks endanger UNIFIL soldiers
More than 100,000 residents of Southern Lebanon have evacuated their homes, said Hagari. Hezbollah is endangering Lebanese citizens with terrorism, said Hagari, saying Israel will respond to every attack with determination.
In northern Israel, following siren alerts in Bar’am, several anti-tank missile and mortar shell launches targeting the area were identified. IDF artillery responded by striking the sources of these launches in Lebanon. Additionally, launches aimed at IDF posts along the northern border were detected. An IDF fighter jet and tanks recently targeted a Hezbollah launch post, hitting weapons and terrorist infrastructure. Moreover, three launches from Syria towards Israel were noted; two fell in Syrian territory, while one landed in an open area in Israel.
The IDF retaliated against these launch sources.
Earlier on Tuesday, following Red Siren alerts, launches were detected targeting western Galilee areas. An interceptor was launched in response, prompting safety alerts in Akko due to falling fragments, although no direct launches towards the city were noted. IDF artillery responded by targeting the launch sources in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, in a recent breach of UNSC Resolution 1701, fired rockets towards Israel for the second time in recent days from a nearby U.N. compound in southern Lebanon.
The IDF warned that this act endangers UNIFIL soldiers and represents a systematic violation of the resolution. The UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander has been informed of the incident.
Hagari said that upcoming talks with visiting officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, would focus on regional threats: the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq.
He added that the IDF will present in detail how it uses intelligence to strike at Hamas’s centers of gravity while making every effort to differentiate between civilians and terrorists.
“The IDF has been doing this from the start of the war; we can show this, certainly, to our ally,” said Hagari.
Also on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held an operational situation assessment in the Division 162 headquarters and was briefed on the division’s operational progress in Gaza, particularly on combat in the northern region of the Gaza Strip and in fighting Hamas terrorists both above and under the ground.
“Following the situation assessment, I can conclude that Gaza City and the northern area of the Gaza Strip are on the verge of collapsing,” said Gallant, referring to Hamas infrastructure. “This Division eliminated hundreds of terrorists on the eastern flank in the area of Jabaliya and its surroundings. Hundreds of terrorists have surrendered. These operations are conducted above ground, but our troops also descend deep underground to locate bunkers, command centers, communication rooms and weapon storages,” he added.
“They [the terrorists] are already telling us about the murders conducted on Oct. 7, among other things. We are expanding our achievements, and soon, we will eliminate the entirety of Hamas’s infrastructure in Gaza City.”
Image: An area in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, after an Israeli Air Force strike on Dec. 12, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.