Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Israel's military said Monday it has encircled Gaza City, the most densely populated area of the Gaza Strip, cutting it off from the rest of the Palestinian enclave as its ground incursion against Hamas continued to build.
Israel Defense Forces troops pushing deep inside Gaza have "reached the coast in Gaza," IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht wrote in a briefing posted on his Substack page. "We've completed encircling northern Gaza, separating Hamas strongholds in the north from the south. This is proving to be effective."
In the meantime, he said, "we've been urging civilians in north Gaza to evacuate for weeks. We will continue to allow civilians to evacuate through the evacuation corridor that we've opened, despite Hamas efforts to stop them."
While not officially confirmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or any of Israel's emergency wartime cabinet, evidence indicates the IDF has completed encircling Gaza City as it seeks to isolate Hamas within its main base, which is undergirded by a sprawling network of tunnels.
From an analysis of recent statements made by Israeli and Hamas military leaders, satellite images and social media videos, it now seem clear Israel has succeeded in encircling Gaza City and has split the strip into northern and southern pieces, NBC News reported.
Michael A. Horowitz, a Jerusalem-based analyst who is the head of intelligence at Le Beck International, told the broadcaster the strategy to isolate Gaza City is likely part of plan to defeat Hamas without necessarily having to enter the tunnel network.
"The tunnels are so complex that if you enter them, you're not sure we're going to come out," he said.
The IDF says 24 Israeli soldiers have died since the ground incursion was launched last week, joining the 1,400 Israelis who died in Hamas' surprise, multi-pronged attack on Israel on Oct. 7. It is seen another indication that close-in fighting inside Gaza is escalating.
The push is coming amid continued airstrikes, which Palestinian health authorities said Monday have so far killed 10,165 people, mainly women and children, with 27,000 more wounded. Israel claims the soaring civilian casualties are due to Hamas using them as human shields and refusing to allow them to flee as directed by the IDF.
Efforts by leaders of the Western and Arab worlds to broker a "humanitarian pause" in the fighting were again rejected by Israel on Monday.
The White House said President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu but could not persuade him agree to "tactical pauses" in the Gaza offensive after Secretary of State Antony Blinken was similarly unsuccessful over the weekend. The Israeli leader is demanding the release of hundreds of hostages held by Hamas as a precondition for a cease-fire.
"The two leaders discussed the possibility of tactical pauses to provide civilians with opportunities to safely depart from areas of ongoing fighting, to ensure assistance is reaching civilians in need, and to enable potential hostage releases," according to the White House.
Biden and Netanyahu "agreed to speak again in the coming days."
The IDF said it carried out more than 450 airstrikes on Hamas tunnels, terrorists, military compounds, observation posts, anti-tank missile launch posts and other targets overnight Sunday into Monday.
The military said it captured a Hamas compound housing observation posts, training facilities and underground "terror" tunnels, killing several of the group's fighters in battles overnight.
Troops took the compound at the end of a day of intense offensive action in which Israeli forces struck targets from the air, sea and land, which it said killed several Hamas commanders, including Jamal Mussa who the IDF said was responsible for the organization's special security operations.
IDF naval assets hit Hamas command centers, anti-tank launch posts and additional observation posts while IDF soldiers engaged in ground battles in which Hamas battalion commanders were subsequently killed.
The IDF said the actions were all intelligence-led, based on information from the Israel Securities Authority and its own intelligence gathering.
Following 24 hours of consistent attacks, Israel announced another four-hour pause in the fighting Monday morning to allow civilians to safely evacuate to the southern end of Gaza.
"Today the IDF will once again allow passage on the Salah al-Din Road [linking the north of the strip with the south] between 10:00 a.m and 2:00 p.m.," IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X.
"For your safety, take this next opportunity to move south beyond Wadi Gaza. If you care about yourself and your loved ones, head south according to our instructions."
Meanwhile, the Jordanian Air Force successfully completed an airdrop of badly needed medical supplies Sunday night to its field hospital in Gaza.
"This is our duty to help the wounded and injured who are suffering as a result of the war on Gaza. Jordan will remain the supporter and closest supporter of our Palestinian brothers," King Abdullah II posted on X, along with photos of crates draped with the Jordanian flag being loaded onto a military transport aircraft.