Israeli forces tighten siege on Gaza City, deploy at Philadelphi to block Hamas’ weapons route

1st Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof, 22, from Givat Zeev was killed in battle with Hamas in Jibalya Sunday.
debkafile‘s military sources report that on the second day of their ground offensive, Sunday, Jan 4, Day 9 of its offensive against Hamas, Israeli forces have closed their siege encirclement of Gaza City. One soldier was killed, 31 injured – one critically, an officer and soldier seriously, the rest moderately and lightly. At least 30 Hamas gunmen were killed in the first thrust of Israel armored infantry, tanks, engineering, artillery and intelligence units into the enclave after a week of intense airstrikes.
Western and Arab informants report that Sunday, Israeli armored forces had taken up position at Hamas launching sites in Beit Hanoun in the north and captured parts of the Zeitun refugee camp and Netzarim to cut off Gaza City and carve the enclave into three segments. They also fought their way into the disused airfield at Dahaniya.
Israeli warships were reported to have dropped troops in the southern Philadelphi enclave through which smuggling tunnels carry Hamas weapons supplies. Armored and infantry unites are fighting for control of the strategic sector after dozens of tunnels were destroyed in previous Israeli air strikes.
Foreign correspondents are not operating inside the Gaza Strip and both Israel and Hamas have cast “a fog of war” over developments.
Hamas gunmen engaging Israeli forces are first battered by fire from Israeli helicopters, artillery and navy. This accounts for their heavy casualties.
On Jan. 1, debkafile reported that Hamas’ tacticians did not plan to send the bulk of their elite fighting force against the Israeli invaders or the forces besieging Gaza City. Several hundred were to mingle with the Gaza City population and carry out nocturnal forays behind Israel lines.
Taking this into account, defense minister Ehud Barak warned shortly after the offensive began that it would not be short or easy. Besieging a city of 800,000 densely packed inhabitants is a daunting mission by any military reckoning, requiring large numbers of troops both to control the city and secure its environs up to the enclave’s southern border at Rafah.
Hence the tens of thousands of Israeli reservists called up for combat duty.
Some are assigned to Israel’s northern frontiers in case Hizballah decides to send Palestinians armed with rockets to open a second front from Lebanon.
debkafile‘ sources report that in early December Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah secretly visited Tehran and met with senior Revolutionary Guards officers. He later welcomed in Beirut the al Qods commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Another Iranian dignitary, Saeed Jalili, chairman of the national security council and senior nuclear negotiator was due in Beirut Sunday, Jan. 4 after talks in Damascus with Syria, Hamas and Jihad Islami leaders.

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