JERUSALEM — Israel expanded on Sunday its ground operation in the Gaza Strip and intensified the airstrike in the besieged enclave, as the death toll in Gaza rose to 8,005.
Two days after sending soldiers into the Gaza Strip, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Daniel Hagari told a press briefing that the military “expanded the entry of IDF troops into the Gaza Strip.”
He said that the current ground operations are focused on the northern Gaza Strip, and they are “gradually expanding the ground activity and the scope of our forces in the Gaza Strip.”
The move came as Israel massed tens of thousands of troops along the Gaza border ahead of a massive ground offensive.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday met with representatives of families of about 230 people kidnapped by Hamas during their Oct. 7 attack on Israel. He said that the expected ground offensive is “part of the effort to return the hostages.”
Palestinian militants approached the Erez Crossing, the main pedestrian crossing point between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli army said in a statement that they exited a shaft of a tunnel near the crossing, adding the soldiers killed and injured the “terrorists” following identification.
Additionally, aircraft guided by IDF troops struck two staging grounds of Hamas and killed several militants, according to the military.
Also in the day, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said in a statement the death toll of Palestinians from Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip rose to 8,005, while more than 20,000 Palestinians have been injured since the fighting broke out.
About 1,400 Israelis were killed, the majority of them in the Hamas offensive that occurred three weeks ago, while about 230 people are being held captive by Hamas.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, at least four Palestinians were killed by gunfire from Israeli security forces during clashes in various areas, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian held two separate phone talks with his Saudi and Qatari counterparts on Sunday to discuss the latest situation in Gaza, calling for collective efforts to stop Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza, and “constant and extensive” aid delivery to the enclave.
On the Israeli-Lebanese border, confrontations expanded at nightfall as several rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Rosh Pina, a town in the Upper Galilee, marking the farthest point to date to which rockets from Lebanon have been fired. However, the Israeli military stated in a release that they were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system.
Meanwhile, Israel also struck targets in southern Lebanon, saying they were Hezbollah posts or areas from which rockets were fired at northern Israel.