JERUSALEM/GAZA (Reuters) – Israel claimed on Tuesday that its forces assaulted Hamas terrorists inside the Islamists’ enormous tunnel network beneath Gaza, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ignored demands for a cease-fire to relieve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave. The tunnels are a critical goal for Israel as it intensifies ground operations inside Gaza to eliminate the governing Hamas movement following its gun rampage three weeks ago that killed over 1,400 people, according to Israeli authorities. “Over the last day, combined IDF combat forces struck approximately 300 targets, including anti-tank missile and rocket launch posts below shafts, as well as military compounds inside underground tunnels belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.

Militants retaliated with anti-tank rockets and machine gun fire, according to the report.
“The soldiers killed terrorists and directed air forces to real-time strikes on targets and terror infrastructure,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated.

According to witnesses, Israeli soldiers struck Gaza City from two directions on Monday, targeting the key north-south thoroughfare. Israel claimed to have released a soldier held captive by Hamas.

So far, Hamas, the militant Islamist organization that administers Gaza, has freed four civilians out of the 239 detainees Israel claims were abducted on October 7. Many of the captives are reported to be held in Hamas tunnels.

The armed branch of Hamas, known as the al-Qassam brigades, reported that militants and Israeli troops engaged in combat early on Tuesday. The Israeli forces were “invading the southern Gaza axis, (including) with machine guns, and targeted four vehicles with al-Yassin 105 missiles,” which are anti-tank missiles made locally.

According to al-Qassam, the militants also used the missiles to strike two Israeli tanks and bulldozers in the northwest of Gaza.

Reports of violence could not be verified by Reuters. The Israeli military did not respond right away.
Since October 7, 8,306 people—3,457 of them minors—have died as a result of Israeli bombardment, according to Gaza health officials. Of Gaza’s estimated 2.3 million civilians, almost 1.4 million are now without a place to live, according to UN estimates.