Hamas leader ‘surrounded in his bunker’

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Israel says its forces are operating “in the heart of Gaza City” and that the Hamas leader is surrounded “in his bunker,” cut off from his allies.

In a televised address from Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli army has penetrated deeper into Gaza than Hamas could ever have imagined.

“In the south, the war is advancing with a force that Hamas has never seen,” he said. The times of Israel reported. “Gaza city is surrounded. We operate within that, increasing the pressure on Hamas every hour, every day.”

The prime minister said that thousands of Hamas terrorists had been killed both above and below ground, adding that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had destroyed “countless” Hamas command centers, positions and tunnels.

“Hamas is discovering that we are reaching places they thought we would never reach,” he said.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar in 2021. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

Hamas leader ‘in bunker’

Its Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, underlined Israel’s determination “to destroy Hamas.”

“We are in the heart of Gaza City,” he told reporters.

“Gaza is the largest terrorist base ever built by man. This whole city is one big terror base. Underground, there are miles of tunnels connecting hospitals and schools, they are connected to each other. It contains communications areas, ammunition depots, sleeping areas and anything that could serve as a base for terrorism from which to harm the citizens of the State of Israel and IDF soldiers.”

Mr. Gallant added that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar “is hiding in his bunker and not in contact with his associates,” although he did not say where the bunker was located.

He stressed that “there will be no humanitarian truce without the return of the hostages.”

Mr. Netanyahu also said that no fuel would be delivered to Gaza and that there would be no ceasefire in Israel’s battle with Hamas unless the more than 240 hostages seized by the Palestinian militants are released .

“There will be no ceasefire without the return of our abductees,” he said, adding that the message was for “both our enemies and our friends.”

The prime minister also issued a sharp warning to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which, like Hamas, is supported by Iran.

“If Hezbollah makes the choice to join the war, it will make the mistake of its life,” he said.

IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel has hit more than 14,000 targets in the Gaza Strip and destroyed more than 100 tunnel entrances.

“Hamas terrorists tell themselves there will be a ceasefire,” he said. ‘There won’t be. We are moving forward.”

The comments came as the IDF released new intelligence on Sunday that it said provided further evidence that Hamas was using hospitals for terror purposes.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Yoav Gallant. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP

One month milestone

Tuesday was a day of remembrance in Israel to mark the grim month-long milestone.

Snickers pierced memorial ceremonies and crowds lit candles as they mourned the 1,400 dead, including families slain in their homes and young people killed at a music festival, in Israel’s worst attack since its founding in 1948.

Israel has vowed to destroy the Islamist militants after their shock attack, launching a campaign in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 10,300 people, mostly civilians, the Hamas-led Health Ministry in the Palestinian territory said.

“There is not one person who is not affected by these terrible attacks,” said 52-year-old Sharon Balaban, one of thousands of Israelis who attended mournful commemoration events. “Everyone knows someone who has been injured, killed, murdered or affected.”

Israelis commemorate one month since the October 7 attacks. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

The US is against the occupation of Gaza

Despite increasing calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu has made it clear that this will not happen unless the hostages are released.

He has said that Israel would assume “general security” in Gaza after the end of the war, while before then allowing possible “tactical pauses” to free prisoners and provide aid to the besieged area of 2.4 million people.

However, Washington said on Tuesday it opposed a new long-term occupation of Gaza by Israel.

“Our position is that Palestinians must be at the forefront of these decisions and that Gaza is Palestinian land and it will remain Palestinian land,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.

“In general, we do not support the reoccupation of Gaza, and neither does Israel.”

Israel withdrew in 2005 from territory it captured during the 1967 Six-Day War.

On Tuesday, UN human rights chief Volker Turk called the month that followed the attack one marked by “carnage, of ceaseless suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair.”

Since the attack, Israel has relentlessly bombarded Gaza with more than 12,000 air and artillery strikes and sent in ground troops that have effectively cut the Gaza Strip in two.

A destroyed building in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Photo: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

‘Moral failure’

Leaflets have been air-dropped and text messages sent ordering civilians in northern Gaza to flee south, but a US official said on Saturday that at least 350,000 civilians remained in the worst-hit areas.

While holding one of her toddlers, Amira al-Sakani recounted how she left Gaza City after encountering the air-dropped Israeli kites.

Along the way, Ms. Sakani said she saw “bodies of martyrs, some in pieces, people abandoning their cars and cattle to walk.”

“Our lives are tragic,” she said. “We don’t want war… we want peace.”

The suffering in Gaza has been immense, with entire city blocks razed to the ground and bodies in white shrouds piling up outside hospitals where surgeons operate by the light of telephones on bloodied floors.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an average of 160 children are killed every day in Gaza due to the war.

“The level of death and suffering is difficult to fathom,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which said one of its humanitarian convoys in Gaza was hit by gunfire on Tuesday, demanded an end to the suffering of civilians, especially children.

“Children have been torn from their families and held hostage. In Gaza, ICRC surgeons are treating toddlers whose skin is charred from widespread burns,” said Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the organization.

“This is a moral failing,” she added.

Military analysts warned of weeks of grueling house-to-house fighting in Gaza.

“Hamas has had 15 years to prepare a dense ‘defense in depth’ that integrates underground, ground and above-ground fortifications,” said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute think tank.

The operation is enormously complicated for Israel because of the hostages, including very young children and vulnerable elderly people, who are believed to be held in a tunnel network spanning hundreds of kilometers.

Israel’s main ally, the United States, has supported the country in its war against Hamas, but also urged restraint and facilitated some aid deliveries and the flight of several hundred refugees with second passports through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Wounded Palestinians at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Photo: Dawood Nemer/AFP

‘Little breaks’

Mr Patel, the US State Department spokesman, said “more than 400 US citizens” have now left Gaza via Rafah.

Hundreds of Palestinians with foreign passports waited in Gaza on Tuesday for their departure.

While most were still nervously queuing, the first arrivals were seen on the Egyptian side, where paramedics took an injured woman on a stretcher to an ambulance.

Tuesday marked the fifth day that Gaza’s only border crossing not controlled by Israel has been opened in the past week to injured Palestinians, foreigners and Palestinian people with dual nationalities.

Mr Netanyahu told ABC News on Monday that the war would continue until Israel restored overall control of Gaza.

“Israel will assume overall security responsibility indefinitely,” he said. “If we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale we couldn’t imagine.”

He stressed that “there will be no ceasefire – a general ceasefire – in Gaza without the release of our hostages.”

“Tactically, little breaks – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had those before,” he said.

“I suppose we will control the conditions so that goods – humanitarian goods – can come in or our hostages, individual hostages, can leave.”

IDF soldiers operate in Gaza. Image:

American diplomacy

About 30 Israeli soldiers were killed in the offensive, most recently on Monday, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Tokyo on Tuesday after a tour of crisis diplomacy in the Middle East for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers seeking a common line on Gaza , as calls for a ceasefire increase.

In the occupied West Bank, he suggested on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmud Abbas should regain control.

Mr Abbas said the PA can only return to power in Gaza in the future if a “comprehensive political solution” is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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