The Israel Defense Forces has begun its ground offensive in the southern Gaza Strip, north of the city of Khan Yunis.
IDF ground forces have already started to attack Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the area, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said on Sunday.
“It will be no less powerful than [the operations in northern Gaza], it will not have lesser results,” he stated, adding: “The Hamas commanders will be confronted by the IDF everywhere.
“Just as we operated powerfully and thoroughly in the north of the Gaza Strip, we have the capabilities to do so now in the south of Gaza,” Halevi continued.
Israeli troops engaged in heavy ground battles near Khan Yunis on Saturday after intelligence revealed Hamas leaders digging in in the city, the second-largest urban area in the Strip after Gaza City, the IDF chief continued.
The IDF resumed combat operations in Gaza on Friday morning after Hamas broke a week-long ceasefire by firing rockets at the Jewish state.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Saturday night that Jerusalem’s objective to dismantle Hamas remains unaltered.
“During the last two days, we operated in areas where we were not active over the last month, and this will increase and intensify,” he said. “This operation will reach every point that needs to be reached. We are going for the absolute elimination of the Hamas terror organization.
“The IDF has returned to fighting at full force—we are carrying on, exactly where we left off,” continued Gallant. “We are keeping our eyes on the goals of this war: defeating Hamas, destroying its governing and military capabilities—not allowing Hamas to continue its rule over Gaza—and returning the hostages to their homes.”
IDF Arabic-language Spokesman Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee said on Sunday that the military was continuing to evacuate Palestinians ahead of the expansion of the ground operation to the southern Gaza Strip.
The IDF has published a map splitting the area into scores of small zones, which will be used to notify civilians of impending active combat.
“The people of Gaza are not our enemies. For this reason, the IDF is leading controlled and specific evacuations in order to remove them as much as possible from areas of combat,” the military said in a message to Gaza residents.
The IDF announced Sunday that a special joint operations unit within the Israel Air Force has directed strikes on approximately 10,000 terrorist sites in the Strip since Hamas began the war with its Oct. 7 invasion that killed more than 1,200 people in southwestern Israel.
Airstrikes over the weekend included an “extensive” wave of more than 50 attacks on Hamas infrastructure in the Khan Yunis area.
Israeli forces have located more than 800 underground tunnel shafts and destroyed around 500 of them since the start of the war, the IDF said on Sunday afternoon, adding that many miles of the tunnel routes have been demolished.