The Israeli army said Tuesday that its forces are battling Hamas fighters inside Gaza’s largest city, signaling a major new stage a month into a war that has claimed thousands of lives and leveled swaths of the territory. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is likely to maintain control of security in Gaza once Hamas is defeated.
The move into Gaza City risks a further escalation in casualties, while Netanyahu’s comments pointed to the uncertainty surrounding the endgame of a war that Israel says will go on for some time until it destroys Hamas rule.
Already the war has brought a staggering cost.
Memorial events were planned in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to mark the 30th day — a milestone in Jewish mourning — since the deaths of around 1,400 killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage in southern Israel that sparked the war. Some 240 people that Hamas abducted during the attack remain in the militants’ hands. More than 250,000 have evacuated homes near Gaza and the Lebanon border amid continuous militant rocket fire toward Israeli cities and towns.
A month of relentless bombardment in Gaza has killed more than 10,300 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, according the Health Ministry of the Hamas-run territory. More than 2,300 are believed buried from strikes that reduced entire city blocks to rubble. Around 70% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, and more than 700,000 of them are crowded into U.N. schools-turned-shelters, relying on a trickle of aid and their own daily foraging for food and water from supplies choked off by weeks of siege.
Israeli ground troops have battled Palestinian militants inside Gaza for over a week, cutting the territory in half and encircling Gaza City. Chief Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said that Israeli ground forces “are located right now in a ground operation in the depths of Gaza City and putting great pressure on Hamas.”
Speaking in an interview with ABC that aired late Monday, Netanyahu said the military had killed several thousand Hamas fighters since the war began. The Gaza Health Ministry’s death toll does not distinguish between civilians and combatants — and slain fighters not brought to hospitals would not be in its count.
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