Israel on Saturday expanded its ground operation in Gaza, sending in tanks and infantry backed by massive strikes from the air and sea. Israel’s defense minister said that “the ground shook in Gaza” and that the war against Hamas had entered a new stage.
The bombardment also knocked out most communications in Gaza. This largely cut off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world, while enabling the Israeli military to control the narrative in the new stage of fighting.
The military released grainy images Saturday showing tank columns moving slowly in open areas of Gaza, many apparently near the border, and said warplanes bombed dozens of Hamas tunnels and underground bunkers. The underground sites are a key target in Israel’s campaign to crush the territory’s ruling group after its bloody incursion into Israel three weeks ago.
“We moved to the next stage in the war,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in remarks broadcast Saturday. “Last evening, the ground shook in Gaza. We attacked above ground and underground. … The instructions to the forces are clear. The campaign will continue until further notice.”
His comments signaled a gradual ramping up toward what is expected to evolve into an all-out ground offensive in northern Gaza.
Until now, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel.
The Palestinian death toll in Gaza on Saturday rose to just over 7,700 people since Oct. 7, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. A majority of those killed have been women and minors, the ministry said.
Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told reporters that the disruption of communications has “totally paralyzed” the health network. Residents had no way of calling ambulances, and emergency teams were chasing the sounds of artillery barrages and airstrikes to search for people in need.
Israel’s military once again ordered Palestinians in northern Gaza and Gaza City to move south as its troops expand their ground offensive in the territory.
“This is an urgent military advisory from the Israel Defense Forces,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a military spokesperson, said in a video message posted on X.
“For your immediate safety, we urge all residents of northern Gaza and Gaza City to relocate south immediately. This is a temporary measure. Moving back to northern Gaza will be possible once the intense hostilities end.”