Israel’s military said on Sunday that it has expanded its ground operation to every part of the Gaza Strip, as it intensified its bombing and shelling of the Palestinian enclave. Israel also ordered more civilians to leave their homes in south Gaza, where it said it would strike with “no less strength” than the north, which has been devastated by the Israeli offensive.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that its ground forces, which include tanks, bulldozers, infantry and combat engineers, have been confronting Hamas fighters across Gaza, and have destroyed hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, which it calls the “Gaza metro”. The IDF said that the tunnels are used by Hamas to move, store and launch rockets, as well as to hide its leaders and hostages.
The IDF said that its air force, navy and artillery have also been supporting the ground operation, and have hit more than 2,000 targets in Gaza since the start of the war on 7 October. The IDF said that its targets include Hamas’s military and political infrastructure, rocket launchers, weapons factories, command centers, training camps and media offices.
The IDF said that its operation aims to restore security and stability to Israel and to the region, and to degrade Hamas’s capabilities and deterrence. The IDF said that it holds Hamas responsible for the escalation and the suffering of the civilians in Gaza, and that it will not stop until it achieves its objectives.
The IDF also said that it has ordered more evacuations in south Gaza, where it said it expects to face fierce resistance from Hamas. The IDF said that it has dropped leaflets, sent text messages and made phone calls to the residents of Khan Yunis, Rafah and other areas, urging them to leave their homes and head to safer locations. The IDF said that it has designated specific routes and times for the evacuations, and that it will facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and workers.
However, many civilians in Gaza have defied the evacuation orders, either out of fear, defiance or lack of alternatives. Some have said that they have nowhere to go, as most of the UN-run schools and shelters are already overcrowded or damaged by the Israeli strikes. Some have also said that they do not trust the IDF’s warnings, and that they prefer to stay and protect their homes and belongings.
According to the Gaza health ministry, more than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 50,000 wounded since the start of the war. The ministry said that most of the casualties are civilians, including women and children, and that many of the dead and injured are still buried under the rubble of their homes. The ministry also said that the health system in Gaza is on the verge of collapse, and that it faces severe shortages of medicine, equipment and fuel.
According to the IDF, more than 1400 Israelis have been killed and more than 2,000 wounded by the rocket fire from Gaza. The IDF said that Hamas and other militant groups have fired more than 10,000 rockets at Israel, reaching as far as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The IDF said that most of the rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, but that some have hit residential areas, causing damage and panic.
The international community has expressed alarm and concern over the situation in Gaza, and has called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The UN Security Council is due to meet in an emergency session on Monday to discuss the crisis, and to urge both sides to show restraint and respect for international humanitarian law. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also appealed for the release of all hostages and prisoners, and for the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers.