IDF forces hunt Hamas tunnels in Gaza City - declaring it 'the largest ... trends now
Retaliating for a deadly October 7 attack by Hamas gunmen, Israeli soldiers have been advancing towards the heart of the city, which was home to 650,000 people before the war and is Hamas' stronghold in the north of the Gaza Strip.
Underlining Israel's determination to destroy Hamas, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described Gaza as 'the largest terrorist base ever built'. Israel says Hamas has its central command and a vast labyrinth of tunnels built under the city.
'We are in the heart of Gaza City,' he said, adding Israel was 'tightening the noose'.
The Israeli military said Hamas militants fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli forces from nearby hospitals and soldiers found weapons hidden in a school in northern Gaza.
The military wing of Hamas, which has ruled the small, densely populated enclave for 16 years, said its fighters were inflicting heavy losses and damage on advancing Israeli forces. It was not possible to verify the battlefield claims of either side.
Israeli troops are battling Hamas terrorists deep inside Gaza city, according to the IDF, as thousands of Palestinians flee south on foot with only what they can carry. Above, an Israeli A Merkava tank is seen operating in the north of Gaza city
Israeli soldiers have been advancing towards the heart of the city, which was home to 650,000 people before the war and is Hamas' stronghold in the north of the Gaza Strip
The Israeli military said Hamas militants fired anti-tank missiles at Israeli forces from nearby hospitals and soldiers found weapons hidden in a school in northern Gaza
The war broke out when Hamas fighters burst across the fence enclosing Gaza and killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and abducted more than 240, according Israel.
A month of relentless bombardment in Gaza since the Hamas attack has killed more than 10,300 Palestinians - two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The group's figures have largely held up under scrutiny following previous wars.
Meanwhile, more than 2,300 are believed to have been buried by strikes that in some cases have demolished entire city blocks.
Israel says 30 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began, and Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel daily.
Hamas' armed wing said on Telegram late on Tuesday it fired missiles at Tel Aviv, and rocket sirens sounded in the Israeli city and other cities in central Israel.
The death toll on both sides is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence, and is continuing to raise fears of a wider Middle East confclit.
Troops on foot and in armoured vehicles and tanks 'have one target - Hamas terrorists in Gaza, their infrastructure, their commanders, bunkers, communications rooms,' Gallant said in a televised news conference.
Hamas' most senior leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was isolated in his bunker, Gallant said, adding it was Sinwar 'who a month ago made the murderous decision to attack Israeli civilians, women, and children.'
And now, he is 'cut off from his surroundings, his chain of command is weakening.'
Hamas' military wing had no immediate comment on the possible fate of Sinwar, and by Wednesday morning, there was no further news on his whereabouts.
Below the city, Gallant said, there were miles of tunnels that ran under schools and hospitals and that housed weapons depots, communication rooms and hideouts.
Security sources told Reuters news agency that Israel's military was starting the next phase of its war, focused on locating and disabling Hamas' labyrinth of tunnels.
Such a task may take months to complete, they said.
'We are increasing pressure on Hamas every hour, every day. So far, we have killed thousands of terrorists, above ground and below ground,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement.
This image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a Shortwave Infrared (SWIR) close view of a number of burning buildings and active fires burning in Gaza City, November 7
Dozens of Palestinians are seen evacuating from the north of Gaza to the south along the coastal territory's main highway that runs the full length of the strip
This image provided by Maxar Technologies shows a close view of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, with humanitarian-associated trucks lined up at and near the border
Smoke is seen rising over Gaza City in this satellite image released by Maxar Technologies
Israeli army flares illuminate the sky over the northern Gaza Strip, as seen from the Israeli city of Sderot on November 7
Rockets are launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards Israel by Palestinian fighters
As Israeli forces advance towards the city centre, thousands of Palestinians were fleeing south on foot with only what they can carry after running out of food and water in the north, a UN agency said Wednesday.
Over 70 per cent of Gaza's population of 2.3 million have already fled their homes, but the growing numbers making their way south point to an increasingly desperate situation in and around Gaza's largest city.
The war triggered by Hamas' assault inside Israel entered a second month on Tuesday, with an increasingly dire humanitarian situation inside the besieged Palestinian enclave. Currently, there is no end in sight.
Israel has said its war to end Hamas' rule and crush its military capabilities will be long and difficult, and that it will maintain some form of control over the coastal enclave indefinitely, even when the war has ended.
About 15,000 people fled northern Gaza on Tuesday, triple the number that left Monday, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
They are using Gaza's treacherous main north-south highway during a daily four-hour window announced by Israel.
Residents were given from 10am to 2pm to leave for the southern part of the 28-mile-long Gaza Strip. Gaza's interior ministry said 900,000 Palestinians were still sheltering in northern Gaza including Gaza City.
Those fleeing include children, the elderly and people with disabilities, and most walked with minimal belongings, the UN agency said.
Some say they had to cross Israeli checkpoints, where they saw people being arrested, while others held their hands in the air and raised white flags while passing Israeli tanks. Some said they saw bodies strewn along the side of the road.
'The most dangerous trip in my life. We saw the tanks from point blank (range). We saw decomposed body parts. We saw death,' resident Adam Fayez Zeyara said in a social media post with a selfie on the road out of Gaza City.
Residents reported loud explosions overnight into Wednesday across Gaza City and in its Shati refugee camp, which houses Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its establishment.
'The bombings were heavy and close,' said Mohamed Abed, who lives in Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. He said residents panicked when they heard the news late Tuesday that Israeli ground forces were fighting deep inside the city.
Hamas denied Israeli troops had made any significant gains or entered Gaza City. It was not possible to independently confirm claims from either side.
Evacuating residents pass a destroyed building following in northern Gaza, November 7
A woman carrying a young child in a street in the northern Gaza Strip, November 7
Residents evacuate Gaza City towards