| Welcome to Global Village Space

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Israel targets Hamas tunnels after encircling Gaza City

Since Hamas gunmen killed 1400 people and took some 240 hostages in an October 7 cross-border raid, Israel has pounded Gaza from the air and used ground troops to divide the coastal enclave in two.

Israel’s ground forces in the Gaza Strip have aimed to locate and disable Hamas militants’ vast tunnel network beneath the enclave, the next phase in an Israeli offensive that has killed thousands of Palestinians.

Since Hamas gunmen killed 1400 people and took some 240 hostages in an October 7 cross-border raid, Israel has pounded Gaza from the air and used ground troops to divide the coastal enclave in two.

Read more: US warns Israel against Gaza ‘reoccupation’

Gaza City, Hamas’ main stronghold in the territory, is encircled. Israel says its troops have advanced to the heart of the densely-populated city while Hamas says its fighters have inflicted heavy losses on the invading forces.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday said Israel had “one target – Hamas terrorists in Gaza, their infrastructure, their commanders, bunkers, communications rooms”.

Chief Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Israel’s combat engineering corps were using explosive devices to destroy a tunnel network built by Hamas that stretches for hundreds of kilometres beneath Gaza.

Israeli tanks have faced heavy resistance from Hamas fighters using the tunnel network to launch ambushes, sources with Hamas and the separate Islamic Jihad militant group said.

It was not possible to verify the battlefield claims of either side.

Israelis in Tel Aviv marked one month since the Hamas attack.

Read more: Israel to take over ‘security’ in Gaza – Netanyahu

Israeli tanks have faced heavy resistance from Hamas fighters using the tunnel network to launch ambushes, two sources with Hamas and the separate militant group Islamic Jihad said.

It was not possible to verify the battlefield claims of either side.

Israelis have voiced fear that military operations could further endanger hostages, who are believed to be held in the tunnels.

While Israel’s military operation is focused on the northern half of Gaza, the south has also come under attack.

Palestinian health officials said at least 23 people were killed in two Israeli air strikes on Tuesday in the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah.

Nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are internally displaced, according to UN figures.

Since October 7, the Israeli bombardment has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, about 40 per cent of them children, according to counts by health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Washington has backed Israel’s position that a ceasefire would help Hamas militarily. But US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he had urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undertake a pause in fighting.

Israel has so far been vague about its long-term plans if it achieves its stated goal of vanquishing Hamas. In some of the first direct comments on the subject, Netanyahu said Israel would seek to have security responsibility for Gaza “for an indefinite period” after the war.

But officials said Israel is not interested in governing the enclave. Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, said that after the war was finished, neither Israel nor Hamas would rule Gaza.

Hamas’ armed wing said late on Tuesday it fired missiles at Tel Aviv, and rocket sirens sounded in the Israeli city and other cities in central Israel.

Israelis in Tel Aviv marked one month since the Hamas attack with a candlelight vigil around photographs of the hostages at Habima Square. Some people wept, some sang or prayed.

“I came to look at the faces of the hostages, to feel part of it. … I want to be by the sides of the families whose loved ones are” in Gaza, said Valeria Nesterov, 24, a make-up artist.

Israel has pounded Gaza from the air and used ground troops to divide the coastal enclave in two.

Nearly two-thirds of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are internally displaced, according to United Nations figures, with thousands seeking refuge at hospitals including in makeshift canvas shelters in their car parks.

International organisations and Western countries have been urgently trying to get aid into the Gaza Strip and get foreign nationals out.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a humanitarian convoy came under fire in Gaza City on Tuesday.