The Israeli military said on Wednesday that airstrikes on the Gaza Strip had killed a Hamas weapons manufacturer and multiple fighters as part of an air and ground offensive that targeted the terrorists’ network of tunnels under the embattled Palestinian enclave.
Israeli forces have surrounded Gaza City, the principal bastion of the Hamas militant group in the region. While Hamas claims its militants have suffered significant casualties, the IDF claims that troops have penetrated into the centre of the heavily populated city.
As the conflict reaches its second month, UN officials are increasing their appeals for a humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, where demolished residences and scarce essential resources prevail. According to Palestinian officials, over 10,000 people have died, with 40% of them children.
The level of death and suffering is “hard to fathom”, U.N. health agency spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.
“Every day, you think it is the worst day and then the next day is worse,” Lindmeier said, quoting a colleague in Gaza.
Israel struck at Gaza in response to a Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages. The war has descended into the bloodiest episode in the generations-long Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Israel’s stated intention is to wipe out Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, pounding it from air, land and sea while ground troops have moved in to divide the narrow coastal strip in two in fierce urban fighting amid the ruins of buildings.
Two Separate Strikes
The Israeli military said on Wednesday two separate strikes eliminated a leading Hamas armourer, Mahsein Abu Zina, and fighters engaged in anti-tank or ground-to-ground rocket fire.
Palestinian media reported clashes between militants and Israeli forces near al-Shati (Beach) refugee camp in Gaza City.
There was no further word from Israel on the possible fate of Yahya Sinwar, the most senior Hamas leader in Gaza and believed to be a key planner of the Oct.7 attacks.
Chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said combat engineers were using explosive devices to destroy a tunnel network built by Hamas that stretches for hundreds of kilometres (miles) beneath Gaza.
Israeli tanks have encountered heavy resistance from Hamas fighters using the tunnels to stage ambushes, according to sources with Hamas and the separate Islamic Jihad militant group. Israel says 32 of its soldiers have been killed.
Israelis fear that military operations could heighten the risk for the hostages reportedly held in the tunnels. Israel states it will not agree to a ceasefire until the hostages are released. Hamas says it will not stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.
“I challenge (Israel) if it has been able, to this moment, to record any military achievement on the ground other than killing civilians,” senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Al Jazeera television.