Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari announced on Friday evening that the Israel Defense Forces “will expand ground operations” in the Gaza Strip this night. Earlier in the day, Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant stated that his country intended to launch a ground offensive soon. According to Jordanian authorities, the Israeli operation has already begun. Residents of Gaza, quoted by the Times of Israel, report that the Israeli army, including tanks, has entered the enclave. The Israeli authorities have not yet confirmed these reports.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jordan Ajman Safadi announced on Friday evening that Israel has just launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. “The result will be a humanitarian disaster on a huge scale,” he added.
The Times of Israel reports that, according to Gaza residents, Israeli ground forces, including tanks, entered the enclave. “There are reports of heavy exchange of fire,” writes the Israeli daily. He notes that he is unable to independently verify this information.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not confirm these reports.
“Tonight Hamas will feel our wrath”
– We are increasing the pressure on Hamas and have started military operations – said Mark Regev, an adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel, quoted by Fox News on Friday evening. He added that “when this is over, Gaza will be completely different.” – Tonight Hamas will feel our wrath, Regev said in an interview with the American television MSNB. He said Hamas would pay for its crimes against humanity. “Tonight we start paying him back,” he added. A little earlier, Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari announced the expansion of the military operation in Gaza on Friday night.
– If (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin – ed.) Netanyahu decides to enter Gaza tonight, the resistance movement is ready, said a Hamas representative.
Israeli army representative Peter Lerner told the American ABC television that the expanded military operations in the Gaza Strip announced earlier on Friday are not an official land invasion. Lerner said that Israel is doing everything to avoid civilian casualties, but – as he said – this is a “war” started by Palestinian Hamas.
In turn, the representative quoted by ABC USA said Israel had launched a “more limited incursion” into Gaza and had agreed to provide humanitarian support.
White House reaction. Kirby: US will not draw any ‘red lines’ for Israel
In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby announced that the US administration was aware of reports about Israeli ground operations but would not comment on them.
During a press briefing on the Zoom platform, he announced that the US administration was in “active talks” with Israel about a pause in the fighting. “We absolutely think that if a humanitarian pause or pauses can allow the hostages to be released, that’s something we would absolutely support and we think Israel should support that as well,” Kirby said. He also stressed that the less said about hostage negotiations, the better for the kidnapped themselves.
A White House representative declined to comment on the IDF operation or confirm that Israeli troops had entered the Gaza Strip. He also said that the US would not set any “red lines” for the Israeli military.
– We will support them and at the same time (…) we have and will have conversations with them about the way they do it. And we have not been shy in expressing our concerns about civilian casualties, Kirby noted.
Gaza Strip without communication with the world
On Friday evening, 2.3 million people living in the Strip were de facto disconnected from the world.
Jawwal and Paltel, providers of telecommunications services in the Gaza Strip, announced on Friday evening that mobile phones and the Internet had stopped working due to intense bombing.
The Red Crescent said it had lost all communications with its medical teams and operating rooms, and concerns were growing that Palestinians would not be able to call ambulances. Other aid organizations reported that they had lost contact with their facilities in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli minister: the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip will be long and difficult
Israeli Defense Minister Yaow Galant, who spoke to a group of foreign correspondents in Tel Aviv on Friday, said the ground offensive in the Gaza Strip would be carried out after several weeks of air attacks on the enclave.
He noted that due to Hamas’ extensive network of underground tunnels, “it will take a long time” before Israeli forces can begin the second phase of the operation.
The second, “low-intensity” phase is to eliminate smaller “resistance centers” of Hamas, Galant explained.
Referring to the ban on bringing fuel into the Gaza Strip, which has been criticized by humanitarian organizations, the minister said that Hamas would confiscate any amount of fuel delivered to the enclave because it uses it for generators that pump air into underground tunnels. Galant showed journalists aerial photos showing – as he explained – the tunnel shaft located right next to the hospital.
“Unprecedented challenge” for the Israeli army
Head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin He assessed that the tunnel network in the Gaza Strip would be an unprecedented challenge for Israeli forces. He added that the American forces’ campaign in Iraq retaking Mosul, which took nine months, may turn out to be easier than what awaits the Israelis, reports Reuters.
Sources in the Israeli security forces – quoted by the agency – admit that the bombings of the Gaza Strip did not cause any major damage to the tunnel network. It is so dense that in Israel it is called “metro”. According to intelligence sources, the underground passages through which supplies are transported from Egypt to the Strip are still operational.
Hospitals are a cover for Hamas
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari announced during a press conference that Hamas fighters “are waging war from hospitals” where they move freely.
“Hamas has transformed hospitals into control and command centers and hideouts for terrorists and commanders,” and one of the organization’s most important “operational bases” is located under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Hagari added.
Izzat al-Rishk, a member of the Hamas political bureau, was quoted by the Times of Israel website and called Hagari’s statement a lie and a “prelude to another massacre” of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.
However, Hagari assured during the press conference that the information about Hamas’ use of hospitals was based on extensive intelligence collected by various services, and this information had already been shared with Israel’s allies. He also emphasized that if “medical facilities are used for terrorist activities, they lose their protected status under international law.”
Main photo source: VIOLETA SANTOS MOURA / Reuters / Forum