Israeli forces completed the encirclement of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip overnight Monday and were preparing to assault Hamas forces in the city, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The area was hit with artillery and airstrikes in preparation for the ground advance, and Israeli forces engaged terrorists on the outskirts of the city with tanks and drones. Three tunnel shafts on the outskirts of the city were destroyed.
The 551st Brigade Combat Team joined special forces in an operation north of Jabalia to open an axis for Israeli forces, according to the IDF. During the operation, Israeli troops engaged terrorists, confiscated weapons, including in residences and children’s rooms, and destroyed tunnel shafts.
Hamas deputy commander killed in Lebanon
An Israeli drone strike killed four Hamas terrorists in southern Lebanon on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
The strike on a vehicle carrying the terrorists occurred in the village of Chaatiyeh near the Mediterranean coast.
They were reportedly members of the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. According to Israeli media reports, one of those killed was Khalil Kharaz, the deputy commander of Hamas’s Lebanon wing.
IAF hits 250 Hamas targets in Gaza in past 24 hours
Over the past 24 hours, the Israeli Air Force hit 250 Hamas targets in Gaza, the military reported on Tuesday morning. Dozens of terrorists were killed and rocket launchers and terror infrastructure were destroyed.
Overnight Monday, IDF troops directed a fighter jet to strike a rocket launching post next to a residential building in a civilian area from which rockets were fired at central Israel on Monday evening.
The IDF also reported that Israeli troops had located a “significant weapons stockpile” at the residence of a senior Nukhba terrorist in Gaza.
The Nukhba (“elite” in Arabic) forces of Hamas led the bloody Oct. 7 rampage in the northwestern Negev during which 1,200 people were murdered, more than 5,000 wounded and some 240 Israelis were kidnapped.
The IDF also said that ground forces located an anti-tank missile hidden underneath a baby’s crib in northern Gaza.
Hostage deal ‘close,’ Hamas leader says
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters on Tuesday that the terrorist group was close to a deal with Israel for a pause in fighting.
Hamas officials are “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel and the terrorist group has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, Haniyeh said in a statement delivered to the news agency by his aide.
Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met with Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to “advance humanitarian issues” related to the conflict, the Geneva-based ICRC said in a statement.
Spoljaric also met separately with Qatari authorities.
Hamas official Issat el Reshiq told Al Jazeera that talks on a deal were focused on the length of the ceasefire, arrangements for delivery of aid to the Strip and details of the prisoner exchange.
The AFP news agency, citing two sources close to the matter, reported on Tuesday that the agreement would involve releasing 50 to 100 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for 300 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, including women and children.
The transfer would take place in stages at the rate of 10 Israeli hostages for 30 Palestinian prisoners per day as part of a five-day pause in fighting that would include humanitarian aid entering Gaza.
According to the report, Israel is insisting on “family reunification,” meaning that if a civilian is released, their partner must also be freed, even if a soldier. Hamas is currently opposed to releasing Israeli soldiers.
Relatives of hostages held in Gaza met with Israeli War Cabinet members on Monday night, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Recovering our hostages is a sacred and supreme task and I am committed to it,” said Netanyahu.
“We will not stop the fighting until we bring our hostages home, destroy Hamas and ensure that there are no more threats from Gaza,” he added.
Two more soldiers fall in Gaza
The IDF on Tuesday morning released for publication the names of two more soldiers killed in action in the Gaza Strip.
Cpt. (res.) Arnon Moshe Avraham Benvenisti Vaspi, 26, from Yesod HaMa’ala, of the Givati Brigade’s elite reconnaissance unit, was killed in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday.
Sgt. Ilya Senkin, 20, from Nof HaGalil, of the Givati Brigade’s Rotem Battalion, also fell in Gaza on Monday.
At least 74 IDF soldiers have been killed in action in Gaza, at the Lebanon border and in Judea and Samaria since the start of the IDF ground operation into the Gaza Strip on Oct. 27; 390 Israeli soldiers have died since the war started on Oct. 7.