Israeli troops have entered Gaza city and are attempting to “encircle” it from several directions, Israel’s top military commander said, describing it as the next phase of the ground offensive in the besieged enclave.
Satellite images and reports on social media showed Israeli armoured vehicles massed near the coast in Gaza’s north, Israeli reinforcements crossing the border from the north east and additional armoured columns heading towards the sea south of Gaza City.
Since launching its incursion over the weekend, Israel’s military has been tight-lipped about how many troops it has committed to its biggest operation in years, and about where they are now. But satellite imagery published by Planet Labs shows a significant invasion.
After they breached the barrier wall in at least six places, vehicle tracks show how Israel’s columns cut through the sparsely populated farmland to the south of the border, before making their way deeper into Gaza towards more populated areas.
Satellite images also shows the devastating toll that the war has taken on more built-up parts of Gaza, with dozens of craters in residential areas, and one entire neighbourhood appearing to have been destroyed.
Destruction in the north of Gaza
Israel’s military has ordered the evacuation of 42 communities along its northern border, where six Israelis have died in cross-border fire from Lebanon that Israel blamed on Hizbollah or Lebanon-based Palestinian factions.
Gaza’s sole power plant went offline on October 11 after it ran out of fuel, the outage captured by night-time satellite imagery.
The death toll of Israeli civilians and troops already surpasses that of the second intifada that lasted for five years in the early 2000s. Palestinian casualties have also mounted rapidly since Israel began its retaliatory air strikes.