Defence chiefs in Tel Aviv claimed to have struck 320 targets as it homed in on Hamas infrastructure, including tunnels and rocket-launching sites.
They said a new weapons system dubbed the Iron Sting had successfully destroyed terrorist rocket launchers with mortars guided by laser and GPS.
Daniel Hagari, chief military spokesman, said troops also carried out “limited” ground operations in which they engaged with Hamas fighters after crossing the border on foot.
Rear Admiral Hagari added: “During the night there were raids by tank and infantry forces.
“These raids are raids that kill squads of terrorists…These are raids that go deep.”
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Another spokesman said the Israeli Defence Force would strike wherever it needed to as it battled to root out the terrorists behind the barbaric cross-border raids two weeks ago.
“Ultimately, Hamas has entrenched itself among the civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip. So wherever a Hamas target arises, the IDF will strike at it in order to thwart the terrorist capabilities of the group, while taking feasible precautions to mitigate the harm to uninvolved civilians.”
But health authorities in the blockaded territory – controlled by Hamas – warned that the 436 new fatalities raised the death toll from a fortnight of fighting to more than 5,000.
The 5,086 total included 2,055 children, 1,119 women and 217 elderly victims, while more than 15,273 people have been injured in the retaliatory action.
Among targets hit was a residential block in Jabalya, which killed 17 people. Among them were 11 members of the same family, including six children.
A relative said: “The children were supposed to be at school with exams, but like every other kid in Gaza, they were sitting in their homes.”
Mahmoud Basal, spokesman for the strip’s civil defence unit, said the raids were also making rescue work increasingly difficult.
“Our crews are recovering victims in the form of body parts, and the chances of recovering survivors are diminishing.”
Seven hospitals in northern Gaza have been forced to close because of damage from air strikes, a shortage of power and supplies or Israeli evacuation orders.
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Cindy McCain, the executive director of the US World Food Programme, said although 17 aid trucks were expected yesterday, the food situation in Gaza remained “catastrophic”.
She added: “We simply have to have this because people are starving.”
Yesterday’s developments came as the number of confirmed hostages held by Hamas in Gaza after the attacks two weeks ago rose to 222.
Rear Admiral Hagari said the figure included many foreign nationals, adding: “We are working in all ways to free the hostages and bring them home.”
He said the ground operations are not the invasion promised by Tel Aviv, but a specific exercise aimed at finding intelligence on the hostages.
“These raids also locate and search for anything we can get in terms of intelligence on the missing and the hostages.”
The White House meanwhile, advised Tel Aviv to delay its expected ground invasion to allow time to negotiate the captives’ release.
Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement that its fighters “engaged with the infiltrating force, destroying two bulldozers and a tank and forced them to withdraw.”
Elsewhere, the IDF said it arrested 64 people overnight, including 37 Hamas members – bringing its total detainees during the conflict to 800, including 500 Hamas affiliates.
Rear admiral Hagari said his forces struck “eight terrorist cells” in Lebanon in the past 24 hours – including seven who were about to fire anti-tank missiles and rockets.
The military spokesman added Hagari also said 20 Hezbollah cells had been struck since fighting broke out on the border earlier this month.
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