Israel has carried out a new incursion into Gaza, targeting Hamas terrorists, military command centers and missile launch sites, as the EU calls for a “humanitarian pause” to allow aid to arrive.
The Israeli military said today that its ground forces, supported by warplanes and drones, carried out a “targeted raid” in Gaza over the past day, as it prepared for a ground invasion .
It comes as EU leaders “open corridors and make humanitarian pauses” in Israel’s war against Hamas, calling for aid access to civilians trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the United Nations states that “nowhere is safe.”
“Over the past day, IDF ground forces, accompanied by IDF fighter jets and drones, conducted an additional targeted raid in the central Gaza Strip,” an army statement said.
“The IDF identified and struck numerous terrorist targets, including anti-tank missile launch sites, military command and control centers, as well as Hamas terrorists,” he said, adding that the troops “have left the area at the end of the activity.
Smoke and fire rise from buildings as people gather amid destruction following an Israeli strike on Gaza City October 26, 2023, as fighting continues between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.
Israeli Merkava tanks are lined up during a military exercise near the border with Lebanon, in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, October 26, 2023, amid ongoing fighting between Israel and the group Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Black and white images released by the army showed a column of armored vehicles as a thick cloud of dust rose into the sky after the strikes.
The army carried out a similar ground operation using tanks and infantry the previous night in the northern part of the Palestinian territory.
The latest incursions came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated earlier this week that Israel was “preparing for a ground offensive.”
On October 7, crowds of Hamas gunmen poured from Gaza into Israel, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 224 others, according to Israeli officials.
In retaliation for Israeli air and artillery strikes, at least 7,028 people were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 2,913 children, according to figures released by the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry.
The death toll in Gaza is the highest since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Palestinian territory in 2005.
EU leaders have demanded “humanitarian corridors and pauses” in Israel’s war against Hamas, calling for access to aid for civilians trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the United Nations state that “nowhere is safe”.
Israel has carried out relentless strikes on the territory since Hamas gunmen crossed the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in the deadliest attack since Israel’s creation.
On Thursday evening, EU leaders called for “continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and assistance to reach those in need through all necessary measures, including humanitarian corridors and breaks for respond to humanitarian needs.
Only 74 trucks carrying food, water and medicine have been allowed into Gaza, home to 2.4 million people, since the start of the conflict – a figure described by humanitarian organizations as grossly insufficient.
Before the conflict, around 500 trucks entered daily, according to the United Nations.
Israel has cut its food, water and electricity supplies to Gaza and insisted that no fuel can be imported because it could be used by Hamas.
An injured man sits in front of a burning building after an Israeli strike on Gaza City on October 26, 2023, as fighting continues between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas.
The resulting shortages have forced 12 of the territory’s 35 hospitals to close, and the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says it has begun “significantly scaling back its operations.”
“Without fuel, there will be no humanitarian response, no aid to those in need, no electricity for hospitals, no access to drinking water and no bread available,” said the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini.
Israel defended its operations, with the unwavering support of its allies, including Washington, and demanded that Hamas release 224 foreign and Israeli hostages it had captured on October 7.
The fate of the hostages remains a complicating factor in Israel’s planned ground operations, with little information on their well-being.
Hamas’ military wing said Thursday that “nearly 50” Israeli hostages had been killed during Israeli bombings, a claim that AFP could not verify.
Four hostages were released, but for the relatives of those who remained behind, the anguish continues.
“Our lives stopped,” Moran Betzer Tayar said of the day his nephew and his wife were kidnapped.
She told a news conference in France that she was “worried sick” and was desperate to keep the fate of the hostages in the public eye.
Rights groups and international organizations have demanded the immediate release of the hostages, who include women and children.
Inside Gaza, punitive strikes have left people with “impossible choices”, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory said Thursday.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” Lynne Hastings said in a statement.
Israel has repeatedly urged civilians in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, but strikes have also hit southern areas and evacuation routes, Hastings said.
About 45 percent of all housing in Gaza has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN, citing local authorities, and satellite images show large swaths of destruction.
Rahma Saqallah fled south with her family, heeding Israeli warnings. But after strikes killed her husband and three of her children, she had to return home.
“Wherever we go, we will die,” she told AFP, as she prepared to leave the southern town of Khan Yunis to return to Gaza with her surviving child. .
“They told us to go south and then they killed us (here).”
Hamas on Thursday released a list of nearly 7,000 names of people it says were killed in Israeli strikes, after US President Joe Biden cast doubt on the territory’s death toll.
The list of 6,747 names specified the age, gender and identity card number of each victim, adding that 281 bodies had not yet been identified. Another 1,600 people, including 900 children, are missing and may be under the rubble, according to the UN citing local authorities.
The war’s toll is by far the highest since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the coastal territory in 2005 – a period which has already seen four wars in Gaza.
The situation has been exacerbated by severe medical shortages, with operations now carried out without anesthesia and ice cream trucks transformed into makeshift morgues.
There are fears the toll could rise exponentially if Israel launches a ground operation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says is in the works.
Israeli troops entered northern Gaza on Wednesday for a “targeted raid” in “preparation for the next stages of fighting,” the army said.
But Israel faces growing calls, including from its allies, to ensure its response does not lead to increased civilian casualties.
“Israel must do everything in its power, no matter how difficult, to protect innocent civilians,” Biden said this week.
An expansion of fighting on the ground also risks a wider regional conflagration, with Iran’s foreign minister warning US officials and the military.
“We do not welcome the expansion and scale of the war in the region,” Hossein Amir-Abdollah told the UN.
“But I warn that if the genocide in Gaza continues, they will not be spared from this fire.”
U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 16 times this month, according to the Pentagon, which has blamed Iran-backed groups.
Biden sent a rare “direct message” to Iran’s supreme leader warning him of any further escalation, according to White House spokesman John Kirby.
“My warning to the Ayatollah was that if they continue to act against these troops, we will respond and he must be prepared. This has nothing to do with Israel,” Biden said.
Exchanges of fire on the Israeli-Lebanese border have caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of people on both sides.
And five people were injured Thursday after a rocket fired during the conflict hit an Egyptian border town, Egyptian media reported.