1 of 12 | A wounded Palestinian boy from the Jabalia refugee camp lies on a bed after being transferred from the Indonesian Hospital in the north to a school in Khan Yunis on Wednesday. The Israeli military says it has destroyed 400 Hamas tunnels ahead of Thursday's anticipated hostage deal. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Israel said its troops continued to battle Hamas in northern Gaza overnight, uncovering and destroying many more tunnels ahead of a four-day truce agreed to on Wednesday coming into effect.
The latest tunnel breaches bring to approximately 400 the number of shafts the military have exposed and destroyed since the beginning of its ground operation Oct. 27, Israeli Defense Forces said in a news update.
"The Yahalom special forces unit of the Combat Engineering Corps has played a significant role in uncovering and destroying these shafts using various methods," said IDF which did not provide a breakdown of the locations of the tunnel shafts.
IDF has long contended that many of the shafts linking to Hamas' embedded network of tunnels beneath population centers across the Gaza Strip are located within hospitals, schools and homes.
The military also urged civilians in Gaza City, the Old City of Jabalia and Shuja'iya neighborhoods in particular, to evacuate to safety in the south of the strip via a protected corridor by 4 p.m. local time.
"We urge you to evacuate your residential areas immediately in order to preserve your safety, via the Salah al-Din Road until 16:00, to reach the south of Wadi Gaza and the humanitarian zone," IDF spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on X.
He added that there would also be a "local tactical pause for humanitarian purposes" between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., in the area of the Jourat al-Lot and Batn al-Sameen neighborhoods in Khan Yunis in the south.
"Hamas has lost its control over northern Gaza, and is trying to prevent Gazans from moving southward for their safety," said Adraee who provided a hotline number for residents who find their way blocked to call for assistance.
IDF also announced the death of Cpt. Liron Snir who it said had been killed in combat in northern Gaza, bringing to 69 the number of Israeli military personnel who have died in the fighting.
The 25-year-old from the West Bank settlement of Ofra was a team commander in the Golani Brigade's reconnaissance unit, IDF said.
World leaders welcomed the truce agreement between Israel and Hamas secured after being approved by a significant majority of the Israeli cabinet late Tuesday.
A Hamas official said the truce would take effect at 10 a.m. local on Thursday, according to Times of Israel and an Israeli official also told CNN it would begin at that time.
IDF, however, would not confirm the timing as Spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hect said he could not say when the fighting would pause or how a cease-fire would be implemented as he had not received orders from the government.
"We still haven't got the nitty gritty of this framework," he said.
At least 50 hostages being held by Hamas, including women and children, will freed under the deal in exchange for a four-day pause in Israel's air and ground offensive and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, according to Hamas.
No information has been released regarding which hostages are to be released, but the majority of Palestinians listed as eligible for release are male teenagers aged 16 to 18 with most jailed for throwing stones and "harming regional security".
A lesser number were detained for supporting illegal terror organizations, illegal weapons charges, incitement, and at least two accusations of attempted murder.
Qatar and Egypt, which helped negotiate the agreement, said their hope was that it would lead to a cease-fire and a longer-term solution.
Washington which was also involved in the talks took a more cautious stance.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while the deal constituted "significant progress," the United States "will not rest as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages in Gaza."
There has been no comment from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has said only that the offensive against Hamas was not complete and would resume when the pause in the fighting ended.