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JERUSALEM — Israeli troops, accompanied by tanks and armored engineering vehicles, carried out raids inside Gaza, where they have clashed with Hamas militants, leaving one Israeli soldier dead and three wounded, according to the military on Monday.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told reporters on Monday that armored and infantry forces were fighting inside the Gaza perimeter with the mission “to kill terrorist cells in preparation for the next phases of war.”
The raids took place as Israeli air, naval and ground forces launched massive overnight strikes across Gaza, from Jabalya in the north, where Israel had warned 1 million Palestinians to evacuate, to Khan Younis and Rafah in the south, areas the Israeli military said would be considered safe zones.
The IDF on Monday said that in the last 24 hours, it fired on 320 targets in the enclave, including tunnels and what it described as command centers run by Hamas and the smaller militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said Monday that 5,087 people have been killed in the enclave since the war began, including 2,055 children and 1,119 women. The Hamas-controlled ministry added that 436 people were killed in the last day, nearly all of them in the south of Gaza, which was supposed to be considered a safe zone. The figures could not be independently confirmed.
The overnight raids inside Gaza were not the beginning of a large ground offensive, but appeared to be small targeted incursions with limited number of soldiers.
At an operational briefing at the Israeli Air Force Operations Command and Control Center on Sunday, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, told the gathering that the ground campaign in Gaza “may take a month, two or three, but at the end there will be no more Hamas.”
The White House said President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed Sunday that there would be a “continued flow” of critical aid, the same day a second convoy of trucks entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt.
A third batch of aid consisting of 20 trucks arrived in Gaza on Monday.
Gaza has received food and medicine — what emergency officials call a drop in a bucket of need — but no fuel, which the densely populated region needs to run the electricity generators that supply lights, pump water and run vehicles, including ambulances.
The weekend raids were not the first time Israeli soldiers have entered the Gaza perimeter. They did so the week after the brutal Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on local communities.
The IDF did not say how many raids have taken place in recent days — but the probes have proved deadly, and one Israeli soldier was killed and three others injured.
Hagari said soldiers had been searching for missing Israelis and clearing an area when they were attacked.
“An antitank missile fired at a tank and an engineering vehicle during a local raid carried out earlier today in the Gaza Strip, in the vicinity of Kissufim,” he said.
“During the night there were raids by tank and infantry forces. These raids are raids that kill squads of terrorists who are preparing for the next stage in the war. These are raids that go deep, to the contact line,” Hagari said. “These raids also locate and search for anything we can get in terms of intelligence on the missing and the hostages.”
The armed wing of Hamas, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement on Sunday night, confirming that its “fighters engaged with the infiltrating force, destroying two bulldozers and a tank and forced the [Israeli troops] to withdraw.”
In Gaza, the Israeli airstrikes, meanwhile, have left buildings in ruins. A strike on Monday morning hit a residential building in Jabalya, killing 17 people and injuring dozens more, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
Among the dead were at least 11 members of Khail Abu Yahia’s family, six of whom were children, he told The Washington Post by phone from central Gaza.
The others killed were his relative’s neighbors, he said, but that the toll was expected to rise as some bodies were badly disfigured.
“The children were supposed to be at school with exams, but like every other kid in Gaza, they were sitting in their homes,” he said. “Then all of a sudden Israel bombed their house without any prior warning.”
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on strikes on Jabalya, which is just outside Gaza City.
Abu Yahia said some of the family members killed had left for the south but after heavy bombardments there returned north.
“If they were still in Khan Younis they would also have been killed,” he said. “People are being targeted in places they were told were safe.”
Israeli officials have reiterated calls for Palestinians to evacuate the north, with an IDF spokesman warning that Israel “will deepen our attacks” and “increase the attacks from today” to “minimize the dangers to our forces in the next stages of the war.”
For Gazans, after more than two weeks of war, there remains nowhere safe to go as despair and anger grows. Many Israelis want Hamas and its forces destroyed once and for all.
Abu Yahia warned that the mounting deaths “will always be the source of power to go on in this long way of struggle without giving up.”
Claire Parker in Cairo contributed to this report.