Israel-Gaza Situation Report: IDF Moving To Cut Off Gaza City From South

There is mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is now advancing in two directions around Gaza City, with reports of Israeli tanks cutting the main north-south Salah al-Din road south of Gaza City as well as operating in the Zaytoun and Shajaiya neighborhoods of the city.

“They have cut the Salah al-Din road and are firing at any vehicle that tries to go along it,” one Palestinian resident told the AFP news agency. At least one video that has been posted to social media seems to show an Israeli Merkava tank, apparently engaging a car on the Salah al-Din Road:

If the Israeli forces have indeed severed the Salah al-Din highway, that would seem to be calculated to cut off Gaza City from the south. This would effectively isolate the entire urban area north of the city, extending as far as Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia.

In his regular press briefing today, IDF chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that Israel is “gradually moving ahead according to plan” in the Gaza Strip. Hagari added that the IDF killed dozens of Gaza militants overnight but provided few details of where Israeli ground forces were now operating.

Hamas has confirmed that its Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades have been engaged in “heavy fighting” with “the invading occupation forces” in northern Gaza.

An official IDF video showing what is claimed to be an Israeli warplane attacking a Hamas target somewhere in the Gaza Strip:

This follows yesterday’s reports of the IDF pushing deeper into Gaza, supported by tanks, with incursions along the northern stretch of the Strip, including along the beach, and farther south on its eastern flank. While you can read more about this here, the indications are that the IDF is now set to carry on fighting in Gaza for the long haul.

It seems probable that the IDF now aims to surround Gaza’s main city and extinguish Hamas as a fighting force there, including taking on its extensive tunnel network under urban sprawl, known to the IDF as “the Metro.”

Aside from tanks, among the other heavy armored vehicles that the IDF is now employing in the conflict is the new Eitan (Hebrew for “strong”) 8×8 armored fighting vehicle, intended to eventually replace the aging M113 armored personnel carrier with the IDF.

The Eitan entered quantity production in 2022, and the first examples were delivered to the Nahal Brigade only in May 2023.

A picture taken from the southern Israeli city of Sderot shows an Eitan 8×8 armored fighting vehicle advancing on a road by the Gaza border, on October 29, 2023. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Northern Gaza has seen an uptick in Israeli airstrikes and artillery bombardment today as the IDF continues its operations there. According to the Israeli Air Force, its aircraft have attacked around 600 targets in the last 24 hours, with strikes also taking place in Lebanon and Syria, once again threatening a deeper regional conflict.

In the following tweet, the Israeli Air Force also provides evidence of expanding ground operations in the Gaza Strip overnight, stating: “In clashes with terrorists in the Gaza Strip, IDF fighters eliminated dozens of terrorists who had barricaded themselves in buildings and tried to attack the forces. During one of the incidents, an aircraft directed by the fighters in the field attacked a meeting building of the terrorist organization Hamas with over 20 terrorists in it.”

Not all of the fighting has been in the north of Gaza. There are unconfirmed reports that Palestinian militants have also clashed in the last 24 hours with Israeli forces in a border area east of the city of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

Again, however, much of the IDF’s operations are taking place under a telecommunications blackout, as well as at night, meaning that detailed information about Israel’s self-declared “second phase” of its war against Hamas is strictly limited.

Although some telecommunications were restored as of Sunday, local telecoms provider Paltel says that further Israeli airstrikes knocked out internet and phone service in parts of northern Gaza, in particular.

Airstrikes and artillery bombardment against Gaza have continued apace, especially in the north.

According to Palestinian media reports, Israeli airstrikes early this morning targeted areas close to the Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals in Gaza City. This has not been independently confirmed, however.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said yesterday that Israeli authorities have called for an immediate evacuation of the Al-Quds hospital. According to the Israeli military, Hamas uses this and other hospitals to protect their command centers and other military infrastructure. Hamas denies this but, either way, the hospitals also still contain not only many patients but also other people trying to escape from the bombardment. In the case of Al-Quds, 14,000 people are seeking shelter there, the rescue service said, adding that some airstrikes hit as close as 50 yards from the hospital, inflicting some damage.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force said that among the targets it hit during the last day were “in the area of Al-Azhar University,” from where it said an anti-tank missile was about to be launched. It also said it had targeted “weapons warehouses, hiding places and gatherings of Hamas operatives, and anti-tank positions.”

At the same time, rocket attacks on Israeli territory continue to be launched from Gaza. Reports in the Israeli media say that rockets fired from the Strip hit an apartment in a building in the southern town of Netivot. No casualties have been reported but videos purportedly posted from there show the Iron Dome air defense system again in action.

As well as striking Gaza, Israel has also targeted what it says were Hezbollah militant cells in Lebanon, as well as Hezbollah-related military infrastructure in Syria.

Israel said it struck three militant cells that fired from Lebanon into Israel on Sunday and that its aircraft were targeting “infrastructures for directing terrorism and military infrastructures of the [Hezbollah] organization.” Hezbollah has said that it fired missiles into Israel and Hamas, too, claims its forces in Lebanon fired 16 missiles at the Israeli city of Nahariya.

The IDF says that one of its fighters targeted military infrastructure in Syria in response to rockets from there that came down in Israeli territory. In this case, the “military infrastructure” almost certainly refers to that belonging to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and/or Hamas operating in that country.

Today, Syrian state TV reported Israeli airstrikes against two army posts in Daraa, which led to “some material losses.” These may well be the same targets mentioned in Israeli reports of the operations in Syria.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank, too, has been subject to Israeli Air Force airstrikes. IDF chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed that Israeli aircraft killed several militants in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

According to the IDF, the airstrikes in the West Bank were carried out to “thwart terrorist infrastructure in the Jenin refugee camp.” It continued: “At the end of an extensive arrest operation to thwart terrorism and confiscate weapons tonight, 51 wanted persons were arrested in Judea and Samaria, of which 38 were operatives in the terrorist organization Hamas.” These claims have not been independently verified.

There are unconfirmed reports of follow-up raids on the Jenin camp and the director of Jenin governmental hospital, Wissam Bakr, has claimed that two men were shot and killed by Israeli forces, according to a report from Al Jazeera.

The Jerusalem Post also reports that “the IDF and Palestinian terrorists exchanged fire overnight in the Jenin refugee camp.”

WAFA, the official state-run news agency of the Palestinian National Authority, claims that more than 100 military vehicles and at least one bulldozer entered Jenin and that an Israeli drone carried out an airstrike.

Other aircraft, including drones, are also playing an active role in the conflict. As this flight-tracking map makes clear, Gaza is a point of particular interest, including for aerial assets operated by countries other than Israel. While the identity of the aircraft in question cannot be confirmed, its route suggests it may very well be an MQ-9 Reaper flying from the major U.S. military base at Sigonella on the Italian island of Sicily.

A picture taken from the southern Israeli city of Sderot shows an Israeli Air Force Hermes 950 drone over the northern Gaza Strip, on October 29, 2023. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images
Also taken from Sderot, this photo shows a pair of Israeli Air Force Heron drones over the northern Gaza Strip. Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

At this stage, the death toll among Palestinians in the conflict has reached 8,306, including 3,457 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, although this figure has not been independently verified.

There has been some movement on the humanitarian front, with 33 more aid trucks having been permitted to enter Gaza from Egypt on Sunday. This was the largest number of trucks to cross in a single day since the conflict began, with Israel having only allowed a limited amount of aid into the enclave.

The 33 trucks — loaded with water, food, and medicine — entered the only border crossing from Egypt, at Rafah.

The U.N. World Food Program says that at least 40 trucks are needed to cross into Gaza daily to meet the demand for food alone.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, U.S. President Joe Biden “underscored the need to immediately and significantly increase the flow of humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of civilians in Gaza,” according to the White House.

In a press statement, the White House added: “The president reiterated that Israel has every right and responsibility to defend its citizens from terrorism and underscored the need to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law that prioritizes the protection of civilians.”

Among those civilians are, most critically, the more than 200 hostages captured by Hamas during their incursion into Israel on October 7. Hamas has now released a video showing three women hostages.

The three Israeli women show no obvious signs of injury and are seated together in plastic chairs, facing the camera.

Only the woman in the center spoke, explaining that they had been in captivity for 23 days, suggesting the video was filmed on Sunday or Monday.

She addresses Netanyahu directly and accuses the Israeli government of leaving her community defenseless during the Hamas attack. “We are getting punished for your political, national neglect,” she said. “Nobody came. Nobody heard us.”

Today it also became clear that one of the presumed hostages, the 22-year-old Israeli-German woman Shani Louk, has been killed. It had been thought that Louk may have been kidnapped alive during Hamas’s assault at a music festival in Re’im on October 7, with imagery showing her, apparently unconscious, on the back of a pickup truck.

Louk’s sister confirmed today that Shani had died, probably during the attack, after the discovery of human remains that suggested injuries that would not have been survivable.

The hostages taken by Hamas also included members of the IDF, at least one of whom, according to to Israeli reports, has now been freed in an operation conducted by the military and the Israel Security Agency, or the Shin Bet.

The IDF has also released the names of three of its soldiers killed in the ongoing Gaza operation.

This is a quickly developing situation, we will continuously update this post as new information becomes available.

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Thomas Newdick Avatar

Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.