Israeli ground forces began closing in on Gaza City on Monday, as Hamas targeted central and southern Israel with rocket barrages.
In a statement, the military said the Israel Defense Forces identified armed terrorists and an anti-tank missile launching post in the area of the Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, and sent a fighter jet to strike them.
Also on Monday, the IDF ground operation succeeded in the release of kidnapped female soldier Pvt. Ori Megidish, who was abducted by Hamas terrorists in its barrage of attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7.
“The soldier was medically checked, is doing well, and has met with her family,” said the IDF. “The IDF and Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] will continue to do everything it takes in order to release the hostages,” it added.
During comments made on Monday, IDF Spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed that “we expanded our armored and infantry forces in Gaza in the last 24 hours,” adding that combat engineering units and artillery forces are also flowing into the Strip. The goal is to collapse Hamas and to bring back hostages.”
IDF soldiers killed tens of terrorists overnight on Monday who fortified themselves and tried to attack them, he said.
Tanks, infantry and other armored units are moving towards terrorists who gather in staging areas, calling in airstrikes and clashing with enemy forces on the ground, according to Hagari.
“This is how we killed 20 terrorists. We move on the ground, identify the enemy and attack from the air. There is also direct engagement on the ground with the enemy,” he said. “We are advancing in a phased manner, and the activity will intensify in line with the stages and goals of the war.”
During clashes with terrorists in the Gaza Strip, IDF troops killed dozens of terrorists who barricaded themselves in buildings and tunnels, and attempted to attack the troops.
In one incident, an Israeli aircraft guided by ground troops struck a staging post inside a building belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization, with more than 20 Hamas terrorist operatives inside it, the IDF said on Monday.
In the last few days, the Israeli Air Force has further struck more than 600 terror targets, including weapons depots and dozens of anti-tank missile launching positions, as well as hideouts and staging grounds used by Hamas.
‘We are on full readiness in the north’
In the north, Hagari said, an Israeli Air Force fighter jet attacked a rocket launcher in Syria after rocket fire against Israel emanated from there, and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attacked terror cells in Lebanon. “We also killed terror squads trying to cross Lebanese Israeli border,” he noted.
Later, a terrorist cell in Lebanon attempted to launch mortar shells towards northern Israel, in the area of Rosh Hanikra. The IDF struck the cell.
Furthermore, two launches that crossed from Lebanon into Israeli territory, which fell in open areas, were identified. Terrorists in Lebanon also fired three anti-tank missiles towards northern Israel on Monday near the area of Biranit. No injuries were reported.
The IDF responded with artillery fire towards the sources of fire in Lebanese territory.
Exchanges of fire continued into Monday evening when, in response to the launches towards Israel from Lebanon, the IDF struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon, including military posts.
“We are on full readiness in the north,” said Hagari.
On Monday evening, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was reserving most of the IAF’s capabilities for other challenges if this will be needed, in reference to the threat from Hezbollah in Lebanon.
In Judea and Samaria overnight, a UAV eliminated a terror squad in Jenin. “We also arrested tens of terrorists who join some 700 Hamas terrorists arrested in Judea and Samaria since the start of the war,” Hagari stated.
“In the Home Front Command, we have to enable routine in shadow of war—from school system to other institutions,” he added.
The IDF has notified 315 families of fallen soldiers and confirmed that Hamas is holding 238 hostages in the Gaza Strip as of Monday morning.
“Returning the hostages is top national goal and the offensive in Gaza advances this,” said Hagari.
“Getting them back is also a global task,” he said, noting that children, the elderly, and others are being held by a terror organization that” committed crimes against humanity at a scope that can’t yet be grasped. The world therefore also has a moral obligation to care for well-being of hostages.”
The IDF also announced on Monday that, based on Shin Bet and military intelligence, troops killed four prominent Hamas operatives on Monday, naming them as: Jamil Baba, commander of Hamas’s naval forces in its Central Brigade; Muhammad Safadi, commander of the anti-tank missile unit in the Tuffah Battalion; Muwaman Hijazi, a prominent operative in Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit; and Muhammad Awdallah, a senior operative in Hamas’s weapons production department.
Mossad chief David Barnea paid a visit to Qatar over the weekend to take part in discussions about the potential for a deal to release hostages in Gaza, according to a report by Axios on Monday.
The report said some of the hostages are in life-threatening situations and that concern is growing for their welfare.