Palestinian medics and hospital doctors told The Associated Press that 23 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive since midnight. They said three of the dead were Hamas fighters and the rest civilians.
The IDF has yet to confirm the report, but estimated that more than 50 gunmen have already been hit.
Palestinian sources reported that at least 12 people were killed in an artillery strike in the northern Strip town of Beit Lahiya. An ambulance dispatched to the scene of the bombing was also hit, and additional rescue forces stayed away for fear.
Shells were also fired into the center of Gaza City, killing at least five people. A father and his son were killed in the town of Jabalya.
IDF armored vehicles in Gaza (Photo: Reuters)
The forces in the northern Strip are operating in several places, within constructed areas used for launching rockets. Soldiers reported of close-range encounters with terrorists and several exchanges of fire, which were not massive.
Mortar shells are being fired at the forces, who are responding with tank fire towards the sources of fire and suspicious targets on the traffic route.
Each force has a list of intelligence targets where in its operation area – terror infrastructures including weapon caches, suspicion of tunnels, and other targets which must be neutralize.
Simultaneously, the IDF is aiming to make contact and arrest gunmen, who will later be taken in for questioning by the Israeli security forces.
Thousands of soldiers in Strip
Hamas, on its part, has refrained from making any estimates on the scope of its casualties. Sources in Gaza spoke of dozens of casualties, some of whom have yet to be treated and whose condition is unclear.
Local hospitals continued to report of a serious shortage in medical equipment. The Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya only has six beds in its emergency room, while dozens of people are evacuated there.
During the invasion and takeover of rocket launchers in the northern Strip, 20 soldiers were injured, two of them suffering serious wounds, in a mortar shell attack on a Golani force. Ten other solders also suffered different degrees of cold weather injuries.
Palestinians reported that the Strip was divided into three, as Israel used to do in its wide-scale operations on the eve of the pullout. The goal is to separate between the different parts of the Strip and prevent the transfer of weapons between them.
Palestinians also reported of extensive activity in the area where the former settlement of Netzarim was located.
Hanan Greenberg, Ali Waked and AP contributed to this report