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Israeli Troops Battle Into Gaza as Airstrike Draws Conflicting Claims

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An unknown number of civilians also remain in the city, facing both the humanitarian crisis gripping Gaza — with dwindling medicine, food, clean water and fuel — and the prospect of chaotic and vicious urban combat.

It remains unclear to what extent Israeli troops have entered Hamas’s tunnels, where Palestinian armed groups are also thought to be holding hundreds of people who were abducted when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

Although Israeli forces rescued a soldier on Monday and Hamas has released four hostages, the number of people believed to be captured has steadily increased over the last three weeks. On Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had notified the families of 240 people who were kidnapped on Oct. 7 and are still being held in Gaza.

Though Israeli leaders have said little about their ultimate plans for Gaza, they have repeatedly told the Israeli public that the war is far from over. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly said it would be a “long and difficult” campaign, and on Monday evening ruled out a cease-fire to allow aid for civilians into Gaza, arguing that a pause would strengthen Hamas.

On Tuesday, Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told reporters in Tel Aviv that the authorities were making plans for “the day after Hamas,” though they were far from achieving that goal.

“We are working on it, a long list of agencies are working on it. Every security body was asked to put forward thoughts for discussions,” he said. “But let’s not deceive ourselves — the ‘day after’ is not close.”

Hamas leaders have struck a defiant tone in the face of Israel’s ground invasion, and the group has continued to fire rockets from Gaza toward Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv. Israel’s emergency service said that four people were wounded after two rockets fell in the southern city of Ashdod, including one who is in critical condition. Hamas’s military wing took responsibility for the attack, and said it came in response to Israel’s “targeting of civilians.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s rejection of a cease-fire came in response to growing international criticism for civilian deaths in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there. The fighting has killed more than 8,500 people in Gaza, including more than 3,500 children, according to the Hamas-run Gazan health ministry, displaced more than a million, and drawn outcry from aid groups and the United Nations.

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