IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari on Saturday night announced that the IDF over the weekend expanded ground operations in the southern and northern parts of the Gaza Strip.
"Our forces are engaging in complex combat as they enter new Hamas strongholds," he added. "Our soldiers engage in complex combat in densely populated areas such as Khan Yunis. We locate terrorist infrastructure, especially underground, and therefore have significantly increased engineering forces there."
"The 98th Division, comprising a larger unit than usual, will see a further expansion of its capabilities in the upcoming days. Our underground operations have resulted in numerous terrorists, some emerging above ground with RPGs and planting explosives. When we engage them, we neutralize them. The terrorists exploit civilian spaces for their purposes, and we respond by targeting them also in these areas."
Hagari explained that although the iAF conducts extensive airstrikes and supports ground troops, "certain targets cannot be destroyed from the air."
"We recently showed an example of extensive underground infrastructures that were discovered in the northern Gaza Strip. After days of thorough work by our forces, we successfully destroyed these facilities and seized them from Hamas. Similar operations are ongoing in the southern Khan Yunis area. It's a time-consuming process, but we remain determined to do it. The ground operations allow us to thoroughly destroy weapons and underground infrastructure."
According to Hagari, the IDF has thus far destroyed and seized approximately 30,000 explosive devices, including anti-tank missiles and rockets that were in Hamas’ possession.
"There is an immense amount of weaponry in Gaza, some as happened today, are found in schools. During our current operation in the Daraj-Tufah, we scanned schools and found weapons, including a significant amount of rockets and equipment belonging to Hamas's naval commando unit. We seize the weapons, neutralizing Hamas' terrorism capabilities."
"Many terrorists surrender during this operation," he added. "We detain and interrogate them, obtaining valuable intelligence about additional targets. Through this intelligence, we adjust our ground operations and achieve better results."
"Our soldiers courageously fight against Hamas terrorists in tough battles, and sadly, we have casualties. Many terrorists are killed daily, and it's part of the harsh reality of war against a cruel enemy embedded within civilian population. There are many terrorists killed on every day of fighting, it needs to be said, it's part of the war, it's a tough war against a cruel enemy who is embedded in the ground above and especially below and also within a civilian population. We strike Hamas but it is a long and difficult operation that will continue for some more time."
Noting that the IDF on Saturday announced the deaths of five IDF soldiers, Hagari said, "They fought with courage and determination to secure the safety of Israel and for the return of the hostages. I want to express condolences to all the bereaved families, we are with you in your difficult hour. This war has a heavy price, and ground operations are necessary to achieve its goals."
Regarding the hostages, he said, "The military pressure coincides with the effort to return the hostages, we are determined to return the hostages and engaged in the effort."