Jerusalem: The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has virtually split the Gaza Strip into two, cutting off the northern part of the besieged enclave from the south, as it sustained its large-scale ground invasion in the territory, hoping to capture the city by Monday or Tuesday even as the total death toll in the war with Hamas mounted to 10,000.
The Israeli military announced late on Sunday that it had surrounded Gaza City, effectively cutting off the northern half of the besieged enclave from the south, and carried out a “large attack” across the region on Hamas targets, media reports said.
“Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,” IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said, describing it as a significant milestone in the ongoing war against Hamas, triggered by the militants’ brutal attack on Israel border communities on October 7.
Israeli media reported that troops are expected to enter Gaza City either Monday or Tuesday.
Israel has repeatedly asked the residents of Gaza to leave the north, where Hamas infrastructure and weaponry are suspected to be located, and seek refuge in the south.
But the south is not a safe zone to flee to as Israeli forces have sustained their aerial strikes on the southern half of Gaza. The IDF said on Monday that a one-way corridor was reopened for civilians to escape south.
On Sunday, large explosions in two central Gaza refugee camps killed scores of Palestinians.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza claimed that at least 40 people died whie dozens were wounded in an Israeli airstrike on the Al Maghazi camp. Three miles north, at least 13 people were killed when Israeli jets hit a house near a school at the Bureij camp, USA TODAY said, quoting agency reporters from the field.
Hagari said in a late night briefing on Sunday that Israeli military forces were carrying out “a large attack on terrorist infrastructure both below and above the ground”.
The IDF said that during the last 24 hours, fighter jets struck “over 450 Hamas targets, including tunnels, terrorists, military compounds, observation posts, anti-tank missile launch posts” and other targets.
The airstrikes killed a high-ranking member of Hamas responsible for the militant group’s special security operations, according to the IDF.
Israeli ground forces, meanwhile, “took control of a Hamas military compound”, the IDF said.
As Gaza city is on the verge of being seized by the IDF, the death toll is expected to rise on both sides as the military intensifies its ground invasion to capture the strip. More than 10,000 Palestinians — including 4,100 children and 2,640 women — have been killed in the war so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
More than 1,400 Israelis have also died, mostly civilians killed during Hamas’ October 7 incursion into Israel.
An estimated 2,260 people, including 1,270 children, are reported missing in Gaza, and most are presumed to be trapped under the rubble, according to the U.N.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that more than 100 attacks on healthcare facilities have taken place as of November 4. Over 1,000 people have been killed or injured in such attacks, the agency said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the meantime said the Palestinian Authority would only assume control of Gaza as part of a “comprehensive political solution” establishing an independent state that would also secure West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 war.
Abbas has no authority in Gaza since the Hamas took over in 2007.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped his third Middle East tour since October 7 with a stopover in Turkey after Egypt and Jordan to put a temporary truce to allow the entrapped to cross over.
Rafah crossing to reopen following airstrike on ambulance: The Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza is going to reopen on Monday for Egyptians and foreigners already on pre-approved lists, CNN said.
The crossing, which is the only feasible way out of the Gaza Strip, was closed on Saturday and Sunday after an Israeli airstrike struck an ambulance near a hospital. Israeli military officials said the ambulance was “being used by a Hamas terrorist cell”.
The Hamas-run government told negotiators, including Egyptian government officials, before the reopening that it won’t allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza until safe passage is secured for the wounded Palestinians headed to the Rafah border, US and Egyptian officials told the Wall Street Journal.
About 1,100 people have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing since it opened last Wednesday, including more than 300 American citizens, permanent residents and their relatives, deputy national security advisor Jon Finer told CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’.
Humanitarian UN agencies want immediate ceasefire: “Enough is enough”, said 18 principle members of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the highest-level coordination platform of the UN system.
“It’s been 30 days,” the letter stated, adding, “Enough is enough. This must stop now.”
The letter — signed by Cindy McCain, head of the World Food Programme, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization — calls for the release of civilian hostages, increased aid flow into the Gaza Strip, the protection of refugee camps and hospitals and “for the parties to respect all their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, media reports said.