The Israeli military said Tuesday its forces had completed the encirclement of the town of Jabaliya and were ready to intensify fighting as they seek to take control of one of Hamas’s last major strongholds in northern Israel. the Gaza Strip.
Describing the fighting led by the Israel Defense Forces’ 162nd Division, the army said it first hit Jabaliya with heavy artillery and airstrikes to “set the stage for battle.”
Troops from the 401st Armored Brigade and the Nahal Infantry Brigade also battled Hamas members on the outskirts of the city, and forces found and destroyed several rocket launchers in the area.
Three tunnel entrances, in which Hamas members were located, were hit, the Israeli army added.
In the northern part of Jabaliya, troops from the 551st Reserve Brigade and other special forces worked to open a route of maneuver for the division, the Israeli military said, adding that the troops killed several IDF gunmen. Hamas, seized weapons and destroyed tunnels.
The northern town of Jabaliya is considered a Hamas stronghold and was a key target in the IDF’s war against Hamas in Gaza, launched after some 3,000 Hamas terrorists stormed the border with Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200 people. , mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostages.
Israel declared war on Hamas in response, launching an air campaign and then a ground offensive aimed at overthrowing the terrorist group that has ruled Gaza since 2007 and securing the release of the hostages.
Also on Tuesday, the Israeli army announced the death of two more soldiers killed in fighting in the northern Gaza Strip, bringing the death toll in the ground operation against Hamas to 68.
The troopers were identified as Cpt. (res.) Arnon Moshe Avraham Benvenisti Vaspi, 26, from Yesud HaMa’ala, officer of the Givati Brigade Reconnaissance Battalion; and Staff Sgt. Ilya Senkin, 20, from Nof Hagalil, soldier in the Rotem battalion of the Givati brigade.
Two reservists and three soldiers were also seriously injured in the fighting.
The ground operation has focused on northern Gaza but is expected to expand to the south of the Strip in future stages of the war.
Jabaliya, four kilometers north of Gaza City, has an estimated population of 172,200 people and is home to the Indonesian hospital. Earlier this month, the IDF said it had compiled intelligence documents showing the presence of a network of tunnels beneath the hospital, as well as aerial images showing rocket launchers just tens of meters from the complex.
Fighting outside the Indonesian hospital has intensified in recent days and 12 people were reported killed in a strike on the hospital on Sunday night.
However, this claim could not be verified and the Israeli military has not commented on the allegations.
The Hamas-run Gaza Strip’s health ministry said Tuesday that hundreds of patients and displaced people were still trapped inside the hospital complex, with supplies dwindling, after the evacuation of 200 people the day before.
Meanwhile, Israel carried out airstrikes against 250 Hamas targets over the past day across Gaza, the Israeli military said earlier Tuesday, adding that it had destroyed the Hamas rocket launcher used to fire over central Israel on Monday.
The launcher was reportedly placed next to a residential building and, after the attack, the women and children sheltering there fled the area.
Meanwhile, during the ground operation, the IDF said Harel Brigade reservists found a weapons cache at the home of a member of Hamas’ Nukhba forces, and the 14th Brigade found a anti-tank missile hidden under a baby’s bed in the northern Gaza Strip.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says more than 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began on October 7, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas members, nor do they distinguish between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket attacks.
On Tuesday, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, estimated that around 160,000 people remained in shelters in northern Gaza, despite the UN agency’s failure to provide them with assistance. care and repeated calls from Israel for them to be evacuated to a safe zone in the region. to the south via humanitarian corridors operated by the IDF.
Some 1.7 million Palestinians, about three-quarters of Gaza’s population, have fled their homes, many congregating in U.N.-run schools and other facilities in the southern enclave.
As shelters overflowed, people were forced to sleep outside on the streets, with little protection from the winter rains that have hit the region in recent days.
The UN has warned that Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are critically short of food and water and said the amount of fuel provided is only half of the minimum daily needs. Israel says Hamas has looted Gaza’s resources, including fuel, and has expressed fear that this will continue and has let the terror group continue fueling its rockets and tunnel network.
Israel has resisted calls for a ceasefire unless a significant number of some 240 hostages kidnapped on October 7, including women and children, are released in exchange. There are also concerns that a prolonged pause in fighting could allow Hamas and other terrorist groups to regroup and prepare for the next stage of fighting, hampering the IDF’s ability to operate.
However, in recent days, Israel and Hamas have indicated that a possible hostage deal is close to being reached, which could result in the release of around 50 people, mainly women and children.
Details of the potential deal are unclear but are expected to include a short ceasefire inside Gaza and the potential release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, mainly women and children.