Israel says it has encircled Gaza City

Israel says it has encircled Gaza City
# 03 November 2023 03:19 (UTC +04:00)

Israeli forces on Thursday encircled Gaza City - the Gaza Strip's main city - in their assault on Hamas, the military said, but the Palestinian militant group resisted their drive with hit-and-run attacks from underground tunnels, APA reports citing Reuters.

The city in the north of the Gaza Strip has become the focus of attack for Israel, which has vowed to annihilate the Islamist group's command structure and has told civilians to flee to the south.

"We're at the height of the battle. We've had impressive successes and have passed the outskirts of Gaza City. We are advancing," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. He gave no further details.

Amid heavy explosions in Gaza, Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters his country's "troops completed the encirclement of Gaza City, which is the focal point of the Hamas terror organization."

Brigadier General Iddo Mizrahi, chief of Israel's military engineers, said troops were encountering mines and booby traps.

"Hamas has learned and prepared itself well," he said.

Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for the armed wing of Hamas, said in a televised speech on Thursday that Israel's death toll in Gaza was much higher than the military had announced. "Your soldiers will return in black bags," he said.

Israel has said it has lost 18 soldiers and killed dozens of militants since ground operations expanded on Friday.

Hamas and allied Islamic Jihad fighters were emerging from tunnels to fire at tanks, then disappearing back into the network, residents said and videos from both groups showed.

In one Hamas military video, a fighter surfaces in a Gaza field and places an explosive device on a tank. An explosion is audible as the fighter, who appears to be wearing a body camera to document the incident, sprints back to the tunnel and fires an anti-tank missile toward the tank.

Palestinian civilians have suffered shortages of food, fuel, drinking water and medicine.

"Water is being used as a weapon of war," said Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.