This photo released by the Israeli military shows ground operations inside the Gaza Strip, on November 2 [Handout via AP]

Israel’s army meets fierce resistance ‘at the gates of Gaza City’

The death toll exceeds 9,000 as Israeli troops battle Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters for the enclave’s biggest city.

Israeli troops have advanced towards Gaza City, the enclave’s largest population centre, but are facing tough opposition from Palestinian fighters in the fight for the city as the total death toll in Gaza exceeds 9,000.

Fighters of Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, and its ally Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) jump out of tunnels to fire at incoming Israeli tanks, before slipping back into their vast underground network, residents said and videos from both groups showed on Thursday.

The guerrilla-style combat has forced Israel, which often utilises its powerful air force to hit Hamas hideouts from above, into a ground war as it seeks to overthrow the Palestinian group entirely.

The Israeli military on Thursday said it had lost the commander of its 53rd battalion in the fighting, bringing the total number of Israeli soldiers killed since it intensified its ground raid to 18.

The commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Salman Habaka, is believed to be the most senior Israeli officer killed since ground operations began in late October.

Israel said it had also killed dozens of Palestinian fighters in the offensive.

As the casualties grow, the war is also drawing closer to Gaza’s northern population hub, where Israel has ordered citizens to evacuate from or risk being seen as “terrorist accomplices”.

Israel has continued to pound the area with air raids, as military officials said they were amassing troops “at the gates of Gaza City”.

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