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Israel’s ground attack encircles Gaza City as it battles Hamas

TEL AVIV — The Israeli army is moving deeper into the Gaza Strip in a ground attack that has surrounded the Palestinian enclave’s largest city and cut off main roads linking the north to the south, people said Israeli officials and Western military analysts.

The campaign has been shrouded in mystery, with increasing numbers of Hamas fighters and Israeli soldiers reported dead, but without a clear, publicly stated plan by Israel for how this campaign might end – or, indeed, a statement that she had even started. Experts were forced to read between the lines of non-specific military briefings, satellite images and shaky battlefield images.

On the other hand, the growing number of deaths among Palestinian civilians is more than apparent. Israel accuses Hamas of using people as human shields, but international organizations and even the United States are increasingly alarmed by the civilian cost of intensifying Israeli operations in the densely populated enclave.

Israel’s stated goals are clear: defeat Hamas and rescue the approximately 240 confirmed hostages held inside Gaza.

“We are making progress,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. “Nothing will stop us.”

How Israel achieves these goals is less certain, given the amorphous nature of Hamas as an organization; the enormous risk involved in trying to recover the hostages; and growing international pressure, including from the United States and Arab leaders, to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties and provide humanitarian aid to the besieged enclave.

Israel has resisted calls for a pause in the fighting and appears to be moving forward in the streets of Gaza. Based on statements from the Israeli military and Hamas, satellite images and footage posted on social media that were analyzed by NBC News, it seems clear that Israel has now surrounded Gaza City, which, according to it is the main base of Hamas, the militant group which carried out the October 7 attacks.

IDF soldiers were engaged in “face-to-face” fighting with Hamas militants around the densely populated city, Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said at a news conference Wednesday, while destroying its infrastructure and seeking to control its network of tunnels. Meanwhile, Israel’s relentless bombardment, now three weeks old, continues, with Israeli troops calling for airstrikes, Hagari said.

The assault also appears to have split the enclave in two, attacking from Gaza’s eastern flank and extending to the coastline, said Michael A. Horowitz, a Jerusalem-based analyst and intelligence chief at Le Beck International. a venture company. management consultancy focused on the Middle East. This is apparently an attempt to separate northern Gaza from the south, to which Israel has asked Palestinians to evacuate but continues to bomb.

Hamas says it is retaliating, claiming to have killed four Israeli soldiers in nighttime fighting, and releasing a video showing one of its members ambushing a tank and planting a bomb inside it – a hint at the type of tactics that could hamper Israel’s advance. .

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