Israel says it has split Gaza in two after surrounding Gaza City

Israel says it has split Gaza in two, creating a north-south divide, and surrounded Gaza City after revealing ‘evidence of Hamas using hospitals as military HQs with patients used as human shields’

  • IDF troops are expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours, Israeli press said
  • It comes as IDF released images of alleged Hamas tunnels underneath hospital

Israel’s Defence Forces declared they have ‘split Gaza in two’ after armoured battalions surrounded Gaza City in preparation for a ground assault on Hamas.

‘Today there is north Gaza and south Gaza,’ Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters, calling it a ‘significant stage’ in Israel’s war against the Hamas militant group ruling the enclave.

Troops are now expected to enter Gaza City within 48 hours, according to Israeli press – an operation that would mark a new chapter of the conflict which began almost one month ago when Hamas gunmen stormed into Israel and slaughtered some 1,400 people. 

Northern Gaza was pounded by incessant Israeli airstrikes overnight Sunday into Monday morning, as the IDF seeks to soften up Hamas strongholds in Gaza City before its soldiers are forced to navigate the perilous streets on foot. 

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said more than 9,700 Palestinians have been killed in nearly a month of war in Gaza, more than 4,000 of them children and minors. It put the death toll for the past day at more than 200.

At the Sheikh Hamad hospital, known as the ‘Qatari’ hospital, Rear Admiral Hagari showed what he said was photo evidence of tunnel entrances alongside the building discovered by Israeli troops.

Hagari said Hamas operates from within the hospital because they know that the IDF cannot launch an airstrike on them without causing collateral damage. 

‘Hamas is weak without human shields,’ he said. 

This handout picture released by the Israeli army on November 5, 2023, shows Israeli tanks and soldiers stationed at a location in the northern Gaza Strip as battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement continue

This picture taken from a position near Sderot along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on November 5, 2023, shows flares dropped by Israeli forces above the Palestinian enclave amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement

Israeli forces are deployed on the border with Gaza in southern Israel on November 5, 2023

Israeli soldiers take part in a military action at a location given as Gaza, amid the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Smoke and flames rise during Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza City November 5, 2023

At one civilian facility, the Sheikh Hamad, known as the ‘Qatari’ hospital, Hagari showed photo evidence of tunnel entrances alongside the building discovered by Israeli troops

Footage shows what the IDF says are entrances to Hamas tunnels beneath one hospital 

On the ground, Israeli forces in Gaza have reported finding stashes of weapons, at times including explosives, suicide drones and missiles. 

The Israeli military said 29 of its soldiers have died during the ground operation so far.

Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus was resolute in declaring the IDF’s intentions for Gaza today. 

‘We will take the fight to Hamas wherever they are – underground, above ground. We will be able to dismantle Hamas, stronghold after stronghold, battalion after battalion, until we achieve the ultimate goal, which is to rid the Gaza Strip – the entire Gaza Strip – of Hamas,’ he said.

Critics meanwhile say Israel’s strikes on Gaza are often disproportionate, considering the large number of civilians killed.

Gaza suffered its third communications blackout as Israeli armoured columns surrounded Gaza City yesterday.

The ‘collapse in connectivity’ across Gaza, reported by internet access advocacy group and confirmed by Palestinian telecom company Paltel, made it even more complicated for rescue workers to convey the details of developments on the ground. 

‘We have lost communication with the vast majority of the UNRWA team members,’ UN Palestinian refugee agency spokesperson Juliette Touma said.

While Israeli troops formed up in Gaza yesterday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank, a day after meeting Arab foreign ministers in Jordan.

Mr Abbas, who has had no authority in Gaza since Hamas took over in 2007, said the Palestinian Authority would only assume control of Gaza as part of a ‘comprehensive political solution’ establishing an independent state that includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands Israel seized in the 1967 war.

His remarks seemed to further narrow the already slim options for who would govern Gaza if Israel topples Hamas.

Children stand in a building, destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza

A Palestinian man carries the corpse of a child killed in Israeli bombardment as he leaves the Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital

People search through buildings, destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza

Palestinian children sit in front of the rubble of a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023

A view of military action at a location given as Gaza, amid the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this screengrab obtained from a handout video released on November 6, 2023

Relatives of Palestinians who died in the Israeli airstrikes gather around the bodies taken from the morgue of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital ahead of the funeral ceremony in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on November 06, 2023

The Secretary’s meeting with Abbas came as a Palestinian man stabbed and wounded two members of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police in east Jerusalem before being shot dead in another sign of widening unrest in the region.

Mr Blinken later visited Iraq to meet with prime minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani about the need to prevent the conflict from spreading, and about efforts to increase the flow of aid to Gaza, which Mr Blinken called ‘grossly insufficient’ at about 100 lorryloads a day.

A Jordanian military cargo plane air-dropped medical aid to a field hospital in northern Gaza, King Abdullah II said on social media.

This appeared to be the first aid delivered by Jordan, a key US ally that has a peace deal with Israel.

Earlier in his tour, Mr Blinken met with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who on Sunday reiterated that ‘there will be no ceasefire without the return of our abductees’.

Arab leaders have called for an immediate ceasefire.

But Mr Blinken said that ‘would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October 7’, when it stormed into southern Israel from Gaza, triggering the war.

Swathes of residential neighbourhoods in northern Gaza have been levelled in airstrikes.

The UN office for humanitarian affairs says more than half the remaining residents, estimated at around 300,000, are sheltering in UN-run facilities.

The UN said that 88 staff members from its Palestinian refugees agency have been reported killed, ‘the highest number of United Nations fatalities ever recorded in a single conflict’.

About 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70 per cent of the population, are thought to have fled their homes.

Food, water and the fuel needed for generators that power hospitals are running close to empty because no fuel has come for nearly one month, the UN Palestinian refugee agency said.

Ongoing Palestinian rocket fire has also forced tens of thousands of people in Israel to leave their homes. 

US Secretary of state Antony Blinken made a surprise visit to Baghdad on November 5, following a trip to the Israeli occupied Palestinian West Bank earlier in the day

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakeshands with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the Palestinian Muqataa Presidential Compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 5, 2023

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. The Lebanon-Israel border has been the site of regular clashes between Israeli forces on one side and Hezbollah and Palestinian armed groups on the other since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war

Smoke rises after Israeli airstrike on the mountainous areas around Rachaya Al Foukhar and Kfarhamam villages of Hasbaya District of the Nabatieh Governorate in Lebanon on November 04, 2023

Palestinian activists shout slogans during a march to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza outside of the British embassy in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, 13 October 2023

The war has stoked wider tensions, with Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group trading fire along the border.

Four civilians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in south Lebanon on Sunday evening, including three children, a local civil defence official and state-run media reported.

The Israeli military said it had attacked Hezbollah targets in response to anti-tank fire that killed an Israeli civilian.

Hezbollah said it fired Grad rockets from southern Lebanon into Israel in response.

Britain’s Foreign Office declared this morning it will withdraw some British embassy staff from Lebanon amid concerns that fighting between Israel and Hezbollah could spiral out of control. 

The FCDO said it had already advised Britons against all travel to Lebanon due to the conflict between neighbouring Israel and Gaza, and encouraged any Britons still in the country to leave while commercial flights remain.

‘There are ongoing mortar and artillery exchanges and air strikes in South Lebanon, on the boundary with Israel. Tensions are high and events could escalate with little warning, which could affect or limit exit routes out of Lebanon,’ an FCDO statement read. 

‘Due to the security situation, some staff at the British embassy and all family members of staff have been temporarily withdrawn. The embassy continues with essential work including services to British nationals.’

On Sunday, the IDF’s Chief of Staff Lt. General Herzi Halevi said his army is prepared to go on the offence in Lebanon if needed.

‘We set a goal of restoring a significantly better security situation on the borders, not only in the Gaza Strip,’ Halevi declared during an assessment at the 210th Division in northern Israel.

‘We are ready at any moment to go on the offence in the north. We understand that it can happen, and we trust you that the defence here is strong,’ he added.

His statement came one day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to escalate the war against Israel, warning of a ‘true battle’.

Meanwhile, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, at least two Palestinians were killed during an Israeli arrest raid in Abu Dis, just outside of Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The military said a militant who had set up an armed cell and fired at Israeli forces was killed.

At least 150 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the war.

Many Israelis have called for Mr Netanyahu to resign and for the return of roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas, but Mr Netanyahu has refused to take responsibility for the lapse in security that gave way to the October 7 attacks.

In another reflection of widespread anger, a junior government minister, Amihai Eliyahu, suggested in a radio interview that Israel could drop an atomic bomb on Gaza.

He later called the remarks ‘metaphorical’.

Mr Netanyahu suspended Mr Eliyahu from cabinet meetings, a move with no practical effect.

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