Rhetoric from Israeli officials, airstrikes, reports of evacuation orders and unconfirmed rumors of ground fighting.
All this already indicated at the weekend that after the end of the ceasefire, Israel decided to strike the city of Khan Yunis, where the rest of the Hamas leadership is supposed to be hiding. And this despite growing international pressure to avoid further evacuations and killing of civilians.
The speculation was confirmed with de facto certainty over the next two days when Israeli troops launched a new incursion into Gaza and fought their way into at least the immediate vicinity of Khan Yunis.
Fighting also broke out in the north, right in the city of Gaza, where Israel advanced further into the eastern part.
Decisive battle in the south
According to the Israeli army, soldiers were already in the “heart” of Khan Yunis on Tuesday. Although it has not yet been confirmed, Palestinian journalists and Hamas brigades are reporting fighting in the city.
There is direct evidence of the advance to the northern edge – satellite images published by the New York Times. They are from as early as Sunday and show Israeli armored vehicles (some of them even surrounded by ramparts or trenches) near the main road leading to Khan Yunis from the north.
The American newspaper states that the images come from a place less than five kilometers north of the city center, whose position you can also see on our map. According to the NYT, the “decisive battle” is to take place in Khan Júnis.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) writes in its latest report that the presence of Israeli troops a little further towards the center, i.e. already on the northern edge, they reported on Tuesday by Palestinian journalists.
According to them, Israeli tanks were also spotted in the east of the adjacent town of Bani Suhajla, which indicates that Israel apparently attacked Khan Yunis not only from the north, but also from the east. Furthermore, ISW states that the fighting in the city was also reported on Telegram a day earlier by the armed forces of Hamas.
Since Monday, the evacuation call for civilians has also been in effect for almost the entire city, and the Israeli army has already announced it for large areas north, east and southeast of the city.
Some accounts on social media, which map the development of the battlefield, state that the Israelis have also operated in the southeastern tip of the Gaza Strip. However, I have not been able to find any credible information about this yet.
On the run
In the north, Israel continues to conquer the city of Gaza
In the north, in Gaza City itself, meanwhile, the advance continued into the more eastern parts of the city in the neighborhoods of Jabaliya and Shijaya, with the Israeli army, as in the case of Khan Younis, saying it is fighting in their “heartland”.
In Jabalia, they testify about the presence of Israeli troops verified shots moving tanks. ISW adds that in addition to Israel, Hamas also reports fighting in this area, which also applies to the more southern district of Shijayya.
What was the situation like before the ceasefire?
Hamas doesn’t just want to delay anymore
According to the ISW, one of the big changes in recent days is a change in Hamas’s strategy, which, according to the think tank, has moved from the “delayed fight” that we described in the last installment of Reports from the Battlefield to a careful defense, the goal of which is no longer just to delay the enemy’s advance, but deterring Israel from continuing the operation.
While before the cease-fire (according to the ISW) Hamas had planned its defense in such a way as to manage to withdraw important persons from the north to the south, now the movement is committed to “decisive defensive battles”. Accordingly, according to ISW, there are reports of more frequent attacks on Israeli armor, the use of mines and, for example, the detonation of an entire building.
Also noteworthy is the video published by Hamas, which is supposed to show resting Israeli soldiers, filmed from an underground tunnel that was later to be detonated. But its authenticity is not confirmed.
Hamas military wing publish scenes of a tunnel in the heart of an Israeli military base near Johr Deek, south Gaza city.
The military wing announced that they filled the whole tunnel with explosives and blew it up among 60 Israeli soldiers then finished off the units. pic.twitter.com/27rMXO3wtz
— Younis Short | Younis (@ytirawi) December 5, 2023
By the way, Israel is also apparently preparing to change tactics. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, citing American sources, the Israelis are considering using pumps to fill the terrorists’ tunnels with water from the Mediterranean Sea.
So far, the Israeli army has not reported significantly higher losses in its own ranks than in the previous weeks of fighting. It has lost 88 people since the start of the ground operation, with 69 two days before the ceasefire and 44 ten days before that.
According to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority, more than 16,200 people have died in the Gaza Strip since the start of Israeli strikes following the October 7 terror attacks.