Israel says it has isolated Gaza City after ‘large’ attack
By Andrés R. Martínez
Israel’s military said Monday that it had encircled Gaza City, effectively splitting the Gaza Strip in half in a move that Israel said would make it harder for Hamas to control the enclave.
The extent of the fighting overnight was unclear because of a communications blackout in Gaza, the third since the start of the war. Israel said it had struck 450 targets overnight in Gaza. Phone and internet connectivity appeared to be gradually returning Monday.
“We’ve completed our encirclement, separating Hamas strongholds in the north and the south, and it’s proving to be effective,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesperson, on Monday. “It’s close-quarters urban warfare. A lot of infantry working there.”
Israel has described Gaza City, in the north of the enclave, as a center for Hamas’ military operations.
As Israel’s military pushed ahead, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Turkey on Monday, the final stop in a whirlwind tour of the Middle East that was aimed as much at warning off Iran as it was at finding a way to alleviate the suffering of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
Shortly after Blinken visited Israel on Friday and asked it to pause fighting to allow aid into Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a cease-fire would be contingent on the release of Israeli hostages, a tough stance that seemed to be a rebuff to Washington.
The communications blackout in Gaza, which lasted at least 15 hours, was similar to the one that began during Israel’s initial invasion 10 days ago, and it limited journalists’ reports. The BBC said one of its Gaza reporters thought the night had brought “the most intense airstrikes since the beginning of the war.”
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said on social media that the blackout cut off access to emergency medical services in Gaza, and that, as during the previous blackouts, it had lost contact with its teams there.