Israel has expanded its ground offensive in Gaza, attacking the main northern city from the east and west on Monday, three days after it began ground operations in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel’s military said it had struck more than 600 militant targets over the past few days as it expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian civilians are in dire need of fuel, food and clean water as the war enters its fourth week.
“IDF troops killed dozens of terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings and tunnels, and attempted to attack the troops,” the military said, adding that four prominent Hamas operatives were among them.
Israel began a big push into Gaza late on Friday and renewed calls for civilians to move from the north of the tiny coastal enclave to the south as it goes after Hamas militants it says are hiding in a labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza City.
Israeli forces carried out dozens of air strikes on its eastern side, residents said on Monday, with some reporting the roar of tanks rolling in amid heavy exchanges of fire.
Later, residents and the Hamas-run government’s media office said the tanks had pulled back towards the heavily fortified fence around Gaza. The militants’ armed wing said intense mortar fire had pushed them back.
To the west, where Israel on Sunday showed tanks on the Mediterranean coast, the north-south coast road was hit several times from the air and sea, residents said.
Palestinian health officials said air strikes had hit near hospitals in the city on Monday, including Al-Shifa, Al-Quds and the Turkish Friendship Hospital.
“Hundreds and hundreds of patients” are stuck in hospitals in the north of Gaza, the United Nations (UN) agency for Palestinian refugees said.
Doctors say Israel told staff to evacuate Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City on Sunday but that moving patients – many of whom are in intensive care – is impossible
Israel has accused Hamas of locating command centres and other military infrastructure in Gaza hospitals, which the group denies.
Air strikes could also be heard in the southern towns of Rafah near Gaza’s border crossing with Egypt, the only one not blocked by Israel, as well as east of Khan Younis, where Palestinian media said Hamas clashed with Israeli troops.
Phone and internet cuts which blacked out Gaza on Friday had eased and OCHA said on Monday services were “largely restored”, although telecoms providers said parts of the north were down.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it has rescued a female soldier in Gaza who was taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, 2023.
They said Private Ori Megidish was freed during overnight ground operations and is “doing well”; it’s the first known rescue of a hostage since the conflict began.
Israel has been bombing Gaza since the October 7 Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people and saw at least 239 people kidnapped as hostages.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said, more than 8,000 people have been killed since Israel’s retaliatory bombing began.