ISRAEL has hinted the war is entering its final phase after having trapped a Hamas leader in a bunker as IDF has started targeting Gaza's underground tunnels.
As Israeli forces push deeper into Gaza City and even split the besieged enclave in two they focus on "clearing" the terror group's tunnel network.
IDF today claimed its forces have Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, known as "Gaza's Bin Laden" surrounded in a bunker after taking control of one of the terrorists' military strongholds.
Israel's defence minister Yoav Gallant, who did not disclose the location, said the Hamas leader was “hiding in his bunker…without contact with his associates”.
And up to 15,000 civilians have fled the combat zone in northern Gaza as Israel's air and ground offensive intensifies.
Israeli spokesperson Jonathan Conricus, branded Hamas leaders as “dead men walking” and noted it's "a matter of time" till they are killed or captured.
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He said: "The mission [inside Gaza] is to engage with Hamas and simply to dismantle each and every Hamas stronghold that is buried underground in bunkers.
"We are doing that in slow and meticulous order according to plan. Our advances are good, solid.
"It is a very challenging battlespace to be in. Hamas has prepared the battlefield, unfortunately, very well.
"And it is totally enmeshed with tunnels. Many of them short tactical tunnels that are just basically fighting positions, that allow Hamas to move from one ally to another. To emerge and then submerge.
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"And some are longer and deeper and wider. But we are slowly getting to all of them and there are gains achieved each day of the fight.
"The directive is definitely to kill or capture … all the leaders of Hamas. Those who planned, facilitated, and executed the murderous 7 October massacre in Israel. We’ve said so clearly.
"All of them are dead men walking. And it’s only a matter of time inside Gaza and outside of Gaza, until these Hamas leaders will either be captured or killed by Israel."
While IDF forces are rapidly closing in on Gaza, Israeli security forces explain that the entire operation "to clean up" would take time with Hamas being estimated to have between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters.
Meanwhile, it becomes evident the conflict is entering its next stage as more and more civilians flee the combat zone on foot.
Up to 15,000 people fled on Tuesday compared to 5,000 on Monday and 2,000 on Sunday, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
They are using Gazas main north-south highway during a daily four-hour window announced by Israel.
Security forces confirmed that targeting Hamas' sprawling tunnel network would be a fundamental part of the next phase of the offensive which would take time.
Chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that Israel was using explosive devices to destroy the tunnels and had destroyed more than 100 shafts.
Former Israeli intelligence official Avi Melamed said Israeli forces were working towards locating the tunnels, destroying rocket launching sites and killing Hamas commanders and fighters.
He said: "It's about eliminating the military spine.
"It would be very reasonable to say that we're looking at something that could take months."
Israel has even trained a unit of attack dogs to send into Hamas' vast tunnel network.
Specially-trained military canines are part of the Oketz unit – able to sniff out explosives, find entrances and maul terrorists.
The IDF has said that many of Hamas' tunnels, command centres and rocket launchers lie adjacent to schools, hospitals and humanitarian institutions in northern Gaza.
Heavy fighting in the area continues with locals reporting loud explosions across Gaza City.
The army's chief spokesperson, saidthat Israeli ground forces had reached the depths of Gaza City.
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And today the Israeli military said that it killed one of Hamas' leading developers of rockets and other weapons Mohsen Abu Zina.
Overnight, the IDF said the terror chief was eliminated after one of its fighter jets blasted Hamas' production headquarters.
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