An inside look at Israel’s ground assault in Gaza
Israel Defense Forces troops began conducting ground operations inside the Gaza Strip late last month, launching a new phase in Israel’s war against Hamas. CBS News was granted an inside look into the conflict with the paratroopers of the 551st Airborne Brigade, among the first forces to invade Gaza after Hamas militants launched a deadly surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7.
Gunners kept lookout as the brigade crossed the desert scrubland of northeast Gaza until it reached Beit Hanoun. As CBS News arrived, the sound of ongoing gun battles could be heard nearby.
Beit Hanoun had an estimated prewar population of more than 60,000 people. After weeks of heavy bombardment causing widespread destruction, it was completely deserted.
Lt. Colonel Ido Kass said there was little choice.
“Look, Hamas is using infrastructure. They’re hiding inside schools,” Kass said. “I mean, just 10 minutes ago we had a serious battle with a group of Hamas inside the school that they built tunnels.”
Kass showed CBS News what he said was a missile site hidden in the backyard of a home, next to what used to be a swimming pool. He said there were about 1,000 militants in the city to begin with, while now there are only a few dozen. But, he said, it’s not the threats above ground that they’re worried about.
As he was speaking, explosions and gunfire erupted a couple of blocks away. CBS News was told a Hamas fighter emerged from a tunnel near a school and fired an RPG at troops.
To the southwest of Beit Hanoun, Israeli troops are closing in on the heart of Gaza City. The ongoing ground assault has triggered a mass exodus south, splitting the territory in two.
Residents making the journey are waving white flags and holding their hands in the air to show they are not part of the fight, as they surrender their homes and the lives they leave behind.
On the highway south of the city, CBS News’ Marwan Al Ghoul spoke with some of those fleeing the fighting. He said that thousands of people have made the hourslong walk to get from the northern part of Gaza to the south. Many are carrying nothing but those white flags.
“We are civilian people,” one resident said. “We want to live in our land with peace, but nobody in the world will let us live.”
One month since the war began, Gaza residents face an uncertain future. First and foremost are the questions of when and how it will end.
Editors note: An updated version of CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata’s video report is included at the top of this page.
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I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.