Attack On Gaza City
On January 7, Israel carried out 40 airstrikes overnight. Dozens of other targets were attacked by aircraft and artillery during the day, and the Gaza-Egypt border was bombed after Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets onto Rafah, urging the residents to leave. A total of 20 Palestinians were killed. A total of 20 rockets were fired into Southern Israel. Israel temporarily halted its attacks for three hours to provide a "humanitarian respite". On January 8, an exchange of fire took place in Gaza city. Hamas suffered heavy losses, but an Israeli officer of the Golani Brigade was also killed. In Northern Gaza, snipers opened fire on Israeli forces conducting an operation, killing an Israeli soldier. Another Israeli soldier was lightly wounded. The IDF soldiers identified the origin of the fire and returned fire, directly hitting the snipers. In another incident, several mortar shells were fired at Givati Brigade soldiers, who responded with mortar fire and were aided by IAF airstrikes. In Central Gaza, a force of IDF soldiers entered a building near the Kissfum crossing. As the force entered, Hamas fighters fired an anti-tank rocket at them, killing one Israeli officer and wounding one soldier. Israeli aircraft also hit more than 40 Hamas targets in Gaza. Israeli troops shot and killed Hamas commander Amir Mansi and wounded two other Hamas fighters as they operated a mortar. The IAF attacked over 60 Hamas targets. A rocket fired from Gaza wounded seven IDF soldiers in Southern Israel. On January 10, the Israeli military said that another 40 sites were targeted, and that 15 Hamas fighters were killed. On January 11, the IDF started the third stage of the operation with an attack on the suburbs of Gaza City. Israeli forces pushed into the south of the city and reached a key junction to its north. During their advance, Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters ambushed Israeli troops at several locations, and heavy fighting ensued, in which 40 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were killed. Additionally, the IAF reported that Hamas operatives had tried to shoot down an IAF plane with anti-aircraft missiles for the first time since operations in Gaza began. Heavy machine gun fire against helicopters had also been unsuccessful. Two Hamas fighters were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Southern Gaza Strip. A Palestinian woman was also killed by Israeli artillery fire. Israeli forces continued to push deeper into heavily populated areas around Gaza City. Fierce clashes were reported in the Southern suburb of Sheikh Ajleen. On January 12, nearly 30 rockets and mortars were fired at Southern Israel, damaging a house in Ashkelon.
On January 13, Israeli tanks continued their advance toward the headquarters of Hamas' preventive security building from the al-Karramah neighborhood in the northwest and the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in the northeast. The Israeli Army also said that 25 mortars and rockets were fired into Southern Israel. Before dawn, during the night, Israeli troops and tanks supported by artillery and helicopters advanced 300 metres into Tel al-Hawa, a neighborhood with several high-rise buildings, while Israeli gunboats shelled Hamas targets along the coast. As troops entered the narrow streets, heavy street fighting with militants ensued leaving three Israeli soldiers wounded and 30 Hamas militants dead or wounded, according to the IDF. By morning IDF soldiers were still advancing slowly towards the city center and several buildings were in flames in Tel al-Hawa, where most of the fighting took place. Five Israeli soldiers were wounded during clashes with militants, and an officer was severely wounded by an explosion inside a booby-trapped building. The push into the neighorhood was Israel's deepest incursion into Gaza City. There was widespread desertion by members of the Qassam Brigades in the face of the IDF advance.
On January 15, Israeli artillery started an intense bombardment of the city while fighting was still going on in the streets. Troops and tanks advanced deeper into the city following the shelling. The Israeli military claimed to have killed dozens of militants since breaching the city limits four days earlier, while they suffered 20–25 soldiers wounded. Among buildings hit by shellfire was the al-Quds hospital, Gaza's second-largest, in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood. At least 14 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, wounding five and severely damaging a house in Sderot.
Almost all members of Hamas' approximately 100-man strong "Iranian Unit" were killed during a battle in the Zeytoun neighborhood on January 15. Members of the military wing had previously travelled to Iran for training by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. According to Palestinian sources, Iran was preparing for an end to the fighting and promised money and resources to rebuild military capabilities and infrastructure destroyed during the fighting.
The headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was also shelled on January 15. There were 3 people injured and tons of food and fuel intended for 750,000 Palestinian refugees were destroyed. The Associated Press initially reported that an anonymous Israeli military official stated that Gaza militants had fired anti-tank weapons and machine guns from inside the compound. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said "it is absolutely true that we were attacked from that place, but the consequences are very sad and we apologize for it, I don't think it should have happened and I'm very sorry." After UNRWA dismissed this as "nonsense", Israel ordered an army investigation into the incident. Israeli officials afterwards "came forward to say that preliminary results showed that the militants ran for safety inside the U.N. compound after firing on Israeli forces from outside".
On January 16, more than 50 Israeli airstrikes were carried out against militants, tunnels, and a mosque suspected of being used as a weapons store. Israeli forces continued their push into Gaza City, while Israeli Navy vessels shelled militant targets in support. About 10 rockets were fired into Southern Israel. Palestinian militants fired 15 rockets into Israel, wounding eight people including a pregnant woman.
The Givati Brigade penetrated the deepest into Gaza City. The brigade's reconnaissance battalion swept into the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood and took over two 15-story buildings in search of Hamas operatives two days before the cease fire went into effect. About 40 Palestinian fighters were killed during the operation. The commander of the brigade, Colonel Ilan Malka, was critical of Hamas' use of civilian houses and said that he "took many steps to prevent our soldiers from getting hurt". Malka told reporters that the IDF had initially predicted each battalion would lose six or seven soldiers.
The Israeli government considered a third phase of the operation with the intent of dealing a "knock out blow" to Hamas. Military and intelligence assessments indicating that shifting the goal to destroying Hamas would require additional weeks of deep ground incursions into urban areas and refugee camps. This was expected to result in heavy casualties on both sides and among civilians, reduce the strong domestic support for the war, and increase international criticism.
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