In footage aired this evening, Israeli military reporters accompany IDF troops into Gaza for the first time, providing some of the most up-close coverage of the ground operation to date.
The reporters entered Gaza from the north yesterday afternoon in the Namer APC of Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen, commander of the IDF’s 162nd Division. They linked up with the Nahal Brigade, which is operating in the Al-Atatra neighborhood of Beit Lahiya, more than 4 kilometers inside the Gaza Strip.
Other forces from the division, including the Givati Brigade and the 401st Armored Brigade, are even deeper inside Gaza City.
The footage from multiple outlets, including Kan, Channel 12, and Channel 13, shows the troops coming under threat from a Hamas drone. The troops seem extremely vigilant about drone-borne grenades, and succeed in shooting it out of the sky. Hamas footage from last week showed a drone dropping an explosive on a tight cluster of soldiers; officers are heard from Friday’s footage warning the journalists that they are not to group together and create a target for Hamas drones.
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Nahal Brigade Commander Col. Yair Zuckerman tells reporters that his forces found a massive tunnel shaft inside a mosque, with fake IDF uniforms inside. He adds that the brigade has come across countless civilian homes boobytrapped by Hamas.
Cohen says that IDF forces are not going into tunnels, but are destroying them together with the air force and combat engineers. Most of the tunnels in his division’s sector have been destroyed, he says.
He adds his troops are fully aware that Israeli hostages could be in tunnels and that the IDF is doing everything it can to find them, without going into detail.
The footage shows infantry, armor, and engineering troops operating together, with Cohen praising the cooperating between the ground troops, intelligence and the air force.
There are multiple gunfights every day with Hamas fighters who pop up out of tunnels, say the troops, including one in which 10 terrorists tried to ambush Nahal forces.
“We are meeting terrorists everyday, and have been able to destroy a large number of them,” says Cohen, adding that Hamas fighters are “escaping backwards” deeper into Gaza City.
“We want to tell the people of Israel at home that what will save the people of Israel is not technology… it helps… but what brings victory is dedication and heroism,” says a Nahal officer. “What we need going forward is that those at home will be able to absorb the fatalities, the difficulty, the pain, the sorrow, and will push us forward. We need that the people at home support us…. We promise to be strong determined and not to stop until Hamas is defeated.”