Hamas fires on Israeli forces pressing ground assault
Israel's military has struck more than 600 militant targets over the past few days as it expands ground operations in Gaza.
Hamas says its militants in Gaza have fired anti-tank missiles at Israel's invading forces and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed calls for a halt to fighting that has deepened the Palestinian enclave's humanitarian crisis.
Israel has expanded ground operations in Gaza as it seeks to punish the Strip's ruling Hamas movement for a deadly gun rampage three weeks ago that Israeli authorities say killed more than 400 people.
Witnesses said Israeli forces targeted Gaza's main north-south road on Monday and attacked Gaza City from two directions. Israel said its troops freed a soldier from Hamas captivity, one of 239 hostages who Israel says were captured on October 7.
The al-Qassam brigades, Hamas' armed wing, said militants clashed early on Tuesday with Israeli forces "invading the southern Gaza axis, (including) with machine guns, and targeted four vehicles with al-Yassin 105 missiles," referring to locally produced anti-tank missiles.
The militants also targeted two Israeli tanks and bulldozers in northwest Gaza with the missiles, al-Qassam said.
Reuters was not able to confirm the reports of fighting. Israel's military had no immediate comment.
Gaza health authorities say 8306 people, including 3457 minors, have been killed in Israeli attacks since October 7. UN officials say more than 1.4 million of Gaza's civilian population of about 2.3 million have been made homeless.
The mounting death toll has drawn calls from the United States, Israel's top ally, other countries and the United Nations for a pause in fighting to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the enclave.
Netanyahu on Monday said Israel would not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas in Gaza and would press ahead with its plans to wipe out the group.
"Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen," Netanyahu said in televised remarks.
Military specialists said Israeli forces are moving slowly in their ground offensive in part to keep open the possibility that Hamas militants will negotiate the release of the hostages.
The relative caution with which Israeli troops have taken and secured slices of territory in the first days of sustained ground operations in Gaza stands in contrast to the past three weeks of unrelenting air strikes on the Mediterranean enclave, as well as to Israel's previous land offensives there.
Israel's military said it struck more than 600 militant targets in recent days in Gaza, where Palestinian civilians are in dire need of fuel, food and clean water.
Aid trucks have been trickling into Gaza from Egypt over the past week via Rafah, the main crossing that does not border Israel. It has become the main point of aid delivery since Israel imposed a "total siege" of Gaza after October 7.
The White House said it was working to get more aid trucks into Gaza.
Hamas released a video on Monday that showed three hostages seized by the Islamist movement on October 7.
The women - identified by Netanyahu as Yelena Trupanob, Danielle Aloni and Rimon Kirsht - sat side by side against a bare wall, and Aloni addressed an angry message to the prime minister.
Netanyahu condemned the video as "cruel psychological propaganda" and said Israel's ground campaign created possibilities for rescuing the hostages.
The conflict has led to demonstrations worldwide in support of the Palestinians, and antisemitic and Islamophobic harassment.
Biden administration officials, voicing alarm at reports of anti-Jewish incidents at US universities, met American Jewish leaders on Monday to discuss steps to counter the surge, a White House official said.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin accused the West and Ukraine of stirring up unrest inside Russia after rioters in the predominantly Muslim Dagestan region stormed an airport to "catch" Jewish passengers on a flight from Tel Aviv.