GAZA – Heavy clashes have been reported as Israeli forces escalate offensive inside Gaza Strip.
Al Jazeera reports that Israeli tanks had briefly reached the outskirts of Gaza City as the army escalated its ground and aerial assault on the besieged Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources told Al Jazeera on Monday that Israeli tanks made an incursion towards Salah al-Din Street, in the middle of the Gaza City governorate, a distance of about 3km (1.8 miles) from the Gaza fence.
Heavy clashes were reported in the area.
Reporting from a few kilometres away, Al Jazeera’s Safwat Kahlout said he could see “plumes of smoke” rising over the area where the tanks were reported to be.
Video footage verified by Al Jazeera showed a tank blowing up one car on the road.
Palestinian medical sources were reporting that three people were killed in the attack.
Later on Monday, Salama Maarouf, the head of the Hamas government office in Gaza, said the Israeli tanks had retreated from the outskirts of Gaza City.
“There is absolutely no ground advance inside the residential neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip. What happened on Salah al-Din Street was the incursion of a few occupation army tanks and a bulldozer.
“These vehicles targeted two civilian cars on Salah al-Din Street and bulldozed the street before the resistance forced them to retreat. There is currently no presence of occupation army vehicles on Salah al-Din Road, and citizen movement has returned to normal on the road,” Maarouf said in a statement.
The tanks stayed for just over an hour and cars soon returned to the highway, driving onto the verge in the parts where craters made the road unusable, according to reports.
Since Friday, Israeli forces had stepped up their ground offensive as part of the military response to the October 7, 2023 Hamas attacks that Israeli officials said killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, with another 239 people taken as captives.
The health ministry in Gaza said more than 8,000 people, mostly civilians and more than half of them children, had since been killed in Israeli air and ground attacks.
Also on Monday, the Israeli army said it had struck more than 600 targets in 24 hours, up from 450 the previous day, in one of the most intense days of the conflict.
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