An inside look at the Israeli ground attack on Gaza
Israeli Defense Forcesinside the Gaza Strip late last month, announcing the start of a new phase in the Israeli war against Hamas. CBS News got an inside look at the conflict with paratroopers from the 551st Airborne Brigade, who are among the first forces to invade Gaza after Hamas militants launched a deadly surprise attack against Israel on October 7.
The artillerymen continued to monitor the brigade as it crossed the desert jungle northeast of Gaza until it reached Beit Hanoun. As CBS News arrived, the sound of gun battles continuing nearby could be heard.
The population of Beit Hanoun before the war was estimated at more than 60 thousand people. After weeks of heavy bombing that caused widespread destruction, it became completely deserted.
Lt. Col. Ido Cass said there were not many options.
“Look, Hamas is using the infrastructure,” Cass said. “They’re hiding inside the schools.” “I mean, just 10 minutes ago we had a serious battle with a group of Hamas inside the school where they built tunnels.”
Cass 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 added that there were about 1,000 militants in the city at first, while there are now only a few dozen. But he said it’s not the above-ground threats that worry them.
As he spoke, explosions and gunfire erupted two blocks away. CBS News has learned that a Hamas fighter emerged from a tunnel near a school and fired an RPG at the troops.
To the southwest of Beit Hanoun, Israeli forces are approaching the heart of Gaza City. The ongoing ground offensive led to a mass exodus south, dividing the region into two parts.
Residents making the journey wave white flags and raise their hands in the air to show they are not part of the fighting, while surrendering their homes and the lives they leave behind.
On the highway south of the city, CBS News correspondent Marwan al-Ghoul spoke with some of those fleeing the fighting. He said that thousands of people walked for many hours to get from the northern part of Gaza to the south. Many carry only those white flags.
“We are civilian people,” one resident said. “We want to live in our land in peace, but no one in the world will allow us to live.”
A month after the start of the war, the people of Gaza face an uncertain future. First and foremost, there are questions about when and how it will end.