Israel expands Gaza ground operations, hits 600+ militant targets

Israeli troops and tanks attacked Gaza's main northern city from the east and west, three days after it began ground operations in the Palestinian enclave that have increased international pressure.
Smoke rises over Gaza, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel October 30, 2023.
Smoke rises over Gaza, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza, in southern Israel October 30, 2023.REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Henriette Chacar

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli troops and tanks attacked Gaza's main northern city from the east and west on Monday, three days after it began ground operations in the Palestinian enclave that have increased international pressure for civilians to be protected.

Israel's military said it had struck more than 600 militant targets over the past few days as it expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian civilians are in dire need of fuel, food and clean water as the war enters its fourth week.

"IDF troops killed dozens of terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings and tunnels, and attempted to attack the troops," the military said, adding that four prominent Hamas operatives were among them.

Israel began a big push into Gaza late on Friday and renewed calls for civilians to move from the north of the tiny coastal enclave to the south as it goes after Hamas militants it says are hiding in a labyrinth of tunnels under Gaza City.

Israeli forces carried out dozens of air strikes on its eastern side, residents said on Monday, with some reporting the roar of tanks rolling in amid heavy exchanges of fire.

Later, residents and the Hamas-run government's media office said the tanks had pulled back towards the heavily fortified fence around Gaza. The militants' armed wing said intense mortar fire had pushed them back.

To the west, where Israel on Sunday showed tanks on the Mediterranean coast, the north-south coast road was hit several times from the air and sea, residents said.

Reuters could not immediately verify the reports and Israel made no immediate comment.

Many Palestinians have remained in Gaza City, afraid to lose their homes and concerned by news of Israeli air strikes further south.

Palestinian health officials said air strikes had hit near hospitals in the city on Monday, including Al-Shifa, Al-Quds and the Turkish Friendship Hospital. The U.N. humanitarian office OCHA said 117,000 civilians are sheltering alongside thousands of patients and doctors in hospitals in the north.

Israel has accused Hamas of locating command centres and other military infrastructure in Gaza hospitals, which the group denies.

Air strikes could also be heard in the southern towns of Rafah near Gaza's border crossing with Egypt, the only one not blocked by Israel, as well as east of Khan Younis, where Palestinian media said Hamas clashed with Israeli troops.

Phone and internet cuts which blacked out Gaza on Friday had eased and OCHA said on Monday services were "largely restored", although telecoms providers said parts of the north were down.


Israel has said 1,400 people were killed when Hamas-led militants stormed through the south of the country on Oct. 7 and took 229 hostage. Hamas has released four so far and said 50 have been killed in retaliatory strikes.

Medical authorities in Hamas-run Gaza, which has a population of 2.3 million people, said on Monday that 8,306 people - including 3,457 minors - had been killed.

OCHA said rescuers were struggling to reach people.

"As of 29 October, about 1,800 people, including at least 940 children, have been reported missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble, awaiting rescue or recovery," it said.

The U.N. agency also said that armed groups continued firing rockets at Israel indiscriminately, with no fatalities reported.

The Israeli defence ministry issued video footage of what it said were manoeuvres inside Gaza showing soldiers in buildings, tanks on a main road, and air strikes on what it said were buildings occupied by Hamas.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the timing or location of the video and Israel's military said it would not reveal where it was filmed.

"We are moving from the ground, spotting the terrorists and attacking from the air. There is also direct engagement between ground forces and terrorists. The fighting is taking place inside the Gaza Strip," military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said.

Hamas and fellow Islamist group Islamic Jihad said they were also fighting Israeli forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Jenin and the Palestinian health ministry said four people were killed there on Monday. Israel said several fighters were killed in an air strike.

Israel said it had arrested 700 Hamas militants in the West Bank, where it says its forces often come under fire.

The Palestinian health ministry said 121 people had been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since Oct. 7. The Palestinian Prisoners Association said 1,680 people had been detained, including women, the elderly and minors.


The conflict has lead to large demonstrations worldwide in support of the Palestinians, and antisemitic and Islamophobic harassment and attacks are increasing.

Russian authorities said they had taken over an airport in the predominantly Muslim Dagestan region and arrested 60 people after hundreds of anti-Israel protesters stormed the facility on Sunday when a plane from Israel arrived.

Local officials said 20 people were wounded before security forces contained the unrest. The plane's passengers were safe, security forces told Reuters.

Israel's widening ground attacks on Gaza have spurred international calls for a "humanitarian pause" to allow aid in.

Hamas wants a five-day pause in Israel's operations to allow aid and fuel into Gaza in return for the release of all civilian hostages held by the militants, a source briefed on Qatar-mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas told Reuters.

More than half the hostages held by Hamas have foreign passports from 25 countries, the Israeli government says.

OCHA said 33 trucks carrying water, food and medical supplies had entered Gaza on Sunday, the biggest delivery so far, but many more were required to meet urgent needs and prevent civil unrest. People stormed aid stores on Sunday in search of food.

Iran backs Hamas and other militant groups in the region and there are fears that the war will spill over, including in Lebanon, where the Israeli army and Iranian-backed Hezbollah group have been exchanging fire.

On Monday, Syrian state TV said Israeli air strikes targeted two army posts in Daraa, leading to "some material losses".

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Yomna Ehab, Ali Swafta, James Mackenzie, Henriette Chacar, Dan Williams, Emma Farge and Jonathan Landay; Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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