War Between Israel and Hamas: Latest Updates – The New York Times | ET REALITY

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Journalists were taken to northern Gaza for four hours on Saturday to see the extent of the Israeli military advance.Credit…Ronen Bergman/The New York Times

A school wall had turned into rubble. The minaret of a mosque leaned to one side. The roof of a beachfront villa was gone, leaving a maroon sofa exposed to the elements.

On Saturday afternoon, along the northern coast of Gaza, these were the signs of the battle between Hamas, the Palestinian militia that controls the Gaza Strip, and the Israeli army, which for eight days had tried to oust Hamas. power.

Israeli military leaders took a small group of foreign journalists to northern Gaza on Saturday for four hours to witness the extent of the advance. Among them was a journalist from the New York Times.

Thousands of troops began their incursion along the coast on October 27, as part of a three-pronged invasion force aimed at defeating Hamas, which led a brazen attack on Israel last month that killed about 1,400 people.

Eight days later, the Israeli army has pushed its way several kilometers south, reaching the outskirts of Gaza City, the Hamas stronghold, and establishing control over the northern stretch of the Gaza coastal highway.

Looking along the northern coast of Gaza.Credit…Ronen Bergman/The New York Times

Less than a month ago, Gaza’s northern coast was a quiet seafront dotted here and there with resorts and beach hotels. On Saturday, it was a gigantic Israeli military camp.

Long lines of infantry marched south along the road, sending plumes of dust into the air. On the sand dunes east of the road, long lines of tanks and armored vehicles dominated the landscape, stretching toward the horizon.

Many buildings were destroyed and their walls were riddled with bullet holes. Some were most likely hit from the air during an Israeli bombing campaign that has killed more than 9,000 Gazans, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza health authority.

Palestinian residents had fled south, abandoning the seafront to Israeli soldiers and some stray dogs and cats.

An Israeli officer accompanying the journalists, Lieutenant Colonel Iddo Ben-Anat, projected an image of calm confidence.

Hamas was defeated here, the colonel said, forced to abandon its bases at the mosque with the leaning minaret and the school with the shattered wall.

“It’s like catching a mouse,” Colonel Ben-Anat said of the enemy. “You have to find it. You know he’s there. You don’t know where he is, but you know that when you catch him, he’ll be done.”

Nearby, groups of soldiers gathered around portable camping stoves, boiling sweet corn and carrots, chatting and joking. Several sported well-groomed mustaches, an incongruous nod to Movember, an annual global fundraising campaign in which men grow mustaches throughout the month of November.

All the political divisions in Israel from last year – in which thousands of military reservists had threatened to refuse to serve in protest against the Israeli government – ​​had disappeared, the colonel said. Many of his men were reservists.

“United, together,” said Colonel Ben-Anat.

But drowning out these expressions of bravado were the sounds of an unfinished and indecisive war.

The Israeli army is closing in on Gaza City, where bloodier battles surely await, as Hamas fighters are believed to have barricaded themselves in a network of underground tunnels.Credit…Ronen Bergman/The New York Times

While some soldiers cooked and rested, others had their weapons in their hands and scanned the horizon for attackers. At any moment, the colonel said, Hamas fighters could emerge from hidden shafts leading to a vast network of underground tunnels, hundreds of kilometers long, and ambush Israeli troops.

Gunshots rang out constantly and ammunition regularly flew over our heads.

Shortly after the journalists entered Gaza through a hole in the wall lining its perimeter, a mortar shell landed near the armored vehicle taking them south.

A few minutes later, a roadside bomb exploded as the vehicle passed, creating a brief fireball and sending sand skyward.

Another mortar barrage landed near the journalists as they approached the front line.

To reach the front, the journalists traveled in a convoy of five tanks and two armored vehicles. A Times reporter was traveling in an armored vehicle known as the Eitan. He had no windows: to see his surroundings, the driver looked at a digital screen that showed a live video of the road ahead.

Palestinian journalists have had no such protection; Dozens of people have been killed in airstrikes since the start of the war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

To truly defeat Hamas, Israel will need to capture all of Gaza, the colonel said.

Bloodier battles await the Israelis in Gaza City, where Hamas fighters are entrenched in their underground fortifications and are believed to be planning many more ambushes.

Analysts say such fighting could cause catastrophic civilian losses, an outcome Israel says it is trying to avoid.

“We are doing everything possible to destroy only Hamas, without harming civilians,” Colonel Ben-Anat said. “We will think 10 times before doing something.”

But for the civilians of Gaza City, who have witnessed one of the most intense bombing campaigns of the 21st century, the attitude of the Israeli army is terrifying.

Saher Abu Adgham, 37, a Palestinian graphic designer, had been searching the streets of Gaza City for firewood to boil rice. As nightfall approached, he lay down in his house in case the army advanced at nightfall.

“I’m afraid of going out one night and encountering a tank,” Abu Adgham said in a telephone interview.

With mobile networks often out of service, other Gaza City residents tried to gauge the Israeli advance by listening to the sound of gunfire.

“We don’t have the Internet to listen to the news and know what’s happening, but we can hear it,” said Majdi Ahmed, 32, a taxi driver taking shelter in a city hospital.

“Now I can hear the gunshots,” Ahmed said in a voice message. “It seems like they are fighting now.”

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reports from Cairo, Abu Bakr Bashir from London and Patrick Kingsley of Jerusalem.

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