Israeli soldiers have entered Gaza City after completing an encirclement of the urban area home to the main force of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, but will now face an array of challenges fighting in the dense city.
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said after encircling Gaza City, naval ships and aircraft are now assisting infantry and armor to strike command and control centers, rocket launch sites and other Hamas infrastructure.
Hagari said combat engineers are also working towards “demolishing and neutralizing” explosives and other hazards to allow troops to move more freely in the area.
“Our forces are killing terrorists in close combat, in any place in which fighting is required, even if it is difficult, the IDF and its soldiers have the upper hand,” he said at a press briefing on Thursday.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said earlier Thursday in a statement on television that Israeli forces were operating in the heart of Gaza City and were fighting “face-to-face battles.”
“These forces are fighting in an urban, tight area,” he said. “It requires professional fighting and lots of courage.”
The push into Gaza City comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed with soldiers and said his forces were on the outskirts of Gaza City and were prepared to “advance and win.”
“Nothing will stop us,” Netanyahu wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The Israeli push into Gaza City, less than a week after Netanyahu announced the “second phase” of the war and expanded ground operations in Gaza, marks what is expected to be the start of a brutal campaign of fighting.
Soldiers will have to fight house-by-house in some instances and enter the vast network of booby-trapped tunnels underneath the city if they want to completely destroy Hamas, which is the stated objective of Israel.
Already, at least 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed, according to the IDF.
But Israel is committed to eradicating Hamas, which launched a deadly Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel, killing more than 1,400 people and taking more than 200 others hostage.
The Israeli military campaign has already killed around 9,000 Palestinians under intense bombing strikes, but a prolonged ground invasion is expected to result in even more casualties.
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This story originally Appeared on The Hill