Saturday, December 2, 2023

Israeli tanks reach Gaza City outskirts, heavy clashes reported

Israeli tanks have reached the outskirts of Gaza City and cut a key road from the north to the south of the besieged enclave, sources claimed on Monday. Later, Palestinian group Hamas announced the Israeli military vehicles had retreated from the region.

Palestinian sources told Al Jazeera on Monday that Israeli tanks made an incursion towards Salah al-Din Street, in the middle of the Gaza City governorate, a distance of about 3km (1.8 miles) from the Gaza fence.

Heavy clashes were reported in the area.

Later on Monday, Salama Maarouf, the head of the Hamas government office in Gaza, stated the Israeli tanks had retreated from the outskirts of Gaza City.

“There’s absolutely no ground advance inside the residential neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip. What happened on Salah al-Din Street was the incursion of a few occupation army tanks and a bulldozer,” Maarouf said in a statement.

“These vehicles targeted two civilian cars on Salah al-Din Street and bulldozed the street before the resistance forced them to retreat. There is currently no presence of occupation army vehicles on Salah al-Din Road, and citizen movement has returned to normal on the road,” he added.

Israel has on several occasions warned the 1.1 million people living in northern Gaza, including Gaza City, to head south to avoid its military strikes as it pushes ahead with a mission to “destroy” Hamas, the group that rules the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Although huge numbers of people have left in recent weeks, tens of thousands more are believed to be still in the zone.

Since Friday, Israeli forces have stepped up their ground offensive as part of the military response to the October 7 Hamas attacks that Israeli officials say killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, with another 240 people taken as captives.

The health ministry in Gaza says more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians and more than half of them children, have since been killed in Israeli air and ground attacks.

The Israeli army claimed troops killed “dozens” of Hamas fighters in overnight clashes, adding they had “barricaded themselves inside buildings and tunnels and attempted to attack the troops”.

The Israeli military also announced it hit “weapons depots, dozens of anti-tank missile launching positions, as well as hideouts and staging grounds used by Hamas.

Israel sent more ground forces into Gaza overnight, according to Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

“Additional forces have entered the strip. Our activity there is only set to intensify,” he said during a daily morning briefing.

Israel over the weekend announced it had entered a “second stage” of its war against Hamas and on Sunday said its ground operation in Gaza would intensify, following weeks of aerial strikes on the besieged territory.

Daoud Shehab, a senior leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, has pledged that its fighters will continue to fight as Israeli forces carry out ground operations within Gaza.

In an interview with Al Jazeera Arabic, Shehab said that the “enemy” was now stationed in empty areas on the outskirts of Palestinian territory and “is getting attacked” by “resistance groups”.

“Israel will not score a victory at the expense of the Palestinian people,” he added.

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