Israeli soldiers house-to-house fighting with Hamas in heart of Gaza City

The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally gave the order for his forces encircling the city to move in, with troops mobilised in the dead of night.

Major General Yaron Finkelman confirmed that for the first time in decades “the IDF is fighting in the heart of Gaza City”.

And Israeli military claimed it had already surrounded one known Hamas leader and killed the head of the terror group’s intelligence and weapons department Mohsen Abu Zina.

The latter was blown up by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in a precision airstrike.

Abu Zina was central to Hamas’ weapon development – specialising in the production of strategic ammunition and rockets for militants to wield in their campaign of terror.

Overnight, the IDF said the terror chief was ‘eliminated’ after one of its fighter jets blasted a known Hamas’ production headquarters.

Dramatic footage footage shows the warehouse being struck from the sky – sending flames and huge plumes of smoke into the air.

An Israeli military spokesman said: “IDF fighters continue to operate deep in the Gaza Strip, eliminating terrorists and directing aircraft to attack terrorist infrastructure.

“An IDF fighter jet, guided by the intelligence of the Shin Bet and Amman, destroyed the Abu Zina warehouse, which served as the head of the Industries and Weapons Department at the Hamas production headquarters.”

Images showed a huge number of Hamas weapons which were seized by Israeli troops.

Israel’s Defence minister Yoav Gallant claimed that the nation’s forces had also swiftly isolated Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar in Gaza City.

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“Gaza is the biggest terror base built by man,” he said.

“The whole of Gaza is a terrorism base.”

He claimed Sinwar was now surrounded, but was hiding in a bunker, “out of touch with his surroundings.”

Military experts warned that the battle for Gaza City could prove to be a long and painful urban conflict, with the loss of many lives expected on both sides.

Israel has repeatedly warned all Palestinians to leave their homes in the city and move south.

But it is not known how many of those remaining are members of Hamas.

And for those civilians still in the city, conditions are horrific.

At Gaza City’s main Al Shifa hospital, Um Haitham Hejela was sheltering with her young children in an improvised tent.

She said: “The situation is getting worse day after day.

“There is no food, no water. When my son goes to pick up water, he queues for three or four hours in the line. They struck bakeries, we don’t have bread.”

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to end the war continued yesterday with the G7 group of nations – including the UK and US – calling for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting in Gaza.

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The IDF yesterday allowed a humanitarian corridor to open for civilians in northern Gaza who still wished to flee south.

But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also insisted there should be no Israeli reoccupation of Gaza after the war, despite this being mooted by Mr Netanyahu.

“Not now, not after the war,” Mr Blinken warned, instead calling for a “sustained peace” which put “Palestinian voices and aspirations at the centre of post-crisis governance in Gaza”.

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Elsewhere, in the south, foreign nationals yesterday continued to cross into Egypt.

The names of more than 600 foreign nationals and their dependents allowed to leave Gaza via the Rafah crossing were published by the Palestinian authorities.

The list was divided into nationalities, including the Philippines, Ukraine and Canada – with names generally described as being Palestinian, dual or international citizenship.

There were no UK nationals on yesterday’s list, with around 100 still feared to be in Gaza.

But a UK Foreign Office minister confirmed that in total, nearly 1,000 Brits have now been safely brought home.

Making a statement in the Commons on the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Andrew Mitchell said: “Immediately after Hamas’ brutal assault, the Government brought home almost 1,000 British nationals safely on charter and military flights, but the safety of all British nationals is our utmost priority and so we are in regular contact with those in Gaza registered with us since the conflict began.

“Working with partners, we have been engaging intensively with Israel and Egypt to allow foreign nationals to leave Gaza via the Rafah border crossing.”

Israel launched its operation after the Hamas attacks on 7 October, which saw 1,400 people killed and more than 200 taken hostage More than 10,569 people have been killed in Gaza according to the Hamas-run health ministry, including more than 4,100 children.

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