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The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has declared that the country has initiated the “second phase” of its conflict with Hamas. This includes a ground operation with tanks and troops in Gaza, along with intense aerial attacks that have not been seen since the start of the retaliatory airstrikes.
The leader of Israel stated that the ongoing conflict will be challenging and lengthy, but the military will not retreat.
“We are just starting. The conflict in the Gaza Strip is expected to be challenging and prolonged; this marks our second fight for liberation,” he stated.
On Friday evening, the Israeli military announced that it was expanding its attack on Gaza. The next morning, it shared low-quality videos of airstrikes from the air and sea, as well as footage of tanks and infantry moving through the area. According to sources from the Israeli security, troops are still present in Gaza as of Saturday afternoon.
Near the Gaza border, the echoing sound of Israeli tank, naval, and aerial fire resembled a drumbeat, causing vibrations for kilometers around.
The IDF released video footage of tanks and armored vehicles in motion in Gaza.
In response to a deadly attack on October 7th by Hamas militants, Israel carried out its most intense bombing operation on Gaza. The raid resulted in the death of 1,400 individuals and the capture of approximately 230 hostages in southern Israel.
“The defence minister, Yoav Gallant, announced that there was an earthquake in Gaza last night. We carried out attacks on both surface and underground targets. Our instructions to the forces are straightforward: the campaign will persist until further notice.”
The military of Israel has issued a new message that is urgent for the people living in Gaza. They are requesting that civilians in the northern area of Gaza move to the southern area temporarily.
Hamas’ military branch has vowed to resist Israel’s ground attack with utmost strength. In a statement on the messaging app Telegram, they announced their involvement in clashes with the Israeli military in Beit Hanoun, Gaza’s northeast region, and the central area of al-Bureij refugee camp.
The United Nations and global human rights organizations have stated that the intense bombardment has resulted in the disruption of mobile, internet, and landline services, causing concerns about the well-being of over 2 million individuals in Gaza. This includes approximately 200 British citizens who are currently in the area.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization reported that due to the communication blackout, individuals are unable to contact emergency services, exacerbating the crisis.
Shortly before the network crashed, citizens of Britain in Gaza informed The Independent about the dire situation in hospitals, with low supplies of medical resources and a shortage of clean drinking water.
“Due to the increasing intensity of bombardments, individuals are unable to contact the Palestinian Red Cross for emergency ambulance services,” stated Robert Mardini, director general of the ICRC, on a social media platform.
“We have great concern for the well-being of first responders and civilians in Gaza. There is currently no secure location available for them.”
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO, it is not feasible to evacuate patients in this situation.
When questioned about whether Israel had disrupted telecommunication services, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, stated that they take necessary actions to protect their forces for however long is necessary, whether it be temporary or permanent. They will not provide any further information on the matter.
According to Juliette Toma, a representative for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), they are unable to carry out their humanitarian assistance efforts without proper means of communication. This includes providing fuel to bakeries and hospitals.
She explained that the organization’s communication was unreliable due to having only one satellite phone to connect with their director, who is currently located in the southern part of the Strip. She also stated that a total of 53 UNRWA employees have lost their lives during the ongoing offensive, including a man with six children who was killed while out getting bread.
Ms Toma expressed fear that they may suffer further losses due to the bombing that occurred last night.
The secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, expressed his surprise at Israel’s increase in bombing in Gaza and reiterated his plea for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire to allow for aid to be delivered.
In a statement, Mr Guterres expressed being uplifted by the recent trend of agreement among the global community regarding the necessity of a humanitarian ceasefire in the ongoing conflict.
“Unfortunately, instead of a break, I was taken aback by a sudden increase in the bombings and their destructive effects, which contradicted the humanitarian goals.”
Ami Hkmon, a 54-year-old member of the city council and a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political party, stated that in Ashkelon, a town in southern Israel that has been targeted by rockets, the community has united in support of the military. He refused to heed international appeals and the UN General Assembly’s decision for a humanitarian ceasefire in order to provide necessary aid to Palestinian civilians.
“I reject the idea of a ceasefire and am not concerned about their opinion. Losing this war means losing our entire nation,” he stated frankly. “If a complete ground attack is not carried out, then we, the citizens, will take matters into our own hands.”
Prior to the intensified attacks on Gaza, the health department in the region controlled by Hamas had stated that 7,000 individuals, including close to 3,000 minors, had been killed by Israeli bombings. This number is already three times higher than the casualties during the seven-week conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014.
During his speech, Mr. Netanyahu accused Hamas of using innocent civilians as shields while defending their military actions. However, he has faced criticism for his efforts to rescue hostages taken by Hamas in Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu stated that he met with the families of the hostages on Saturday and promised to do everything in his power to bring them back safely.
Previously, relatives of hostages, worried about the safety of their family members during the intense bombing, organized a demonstration to request a meeting with Mr. Netanyahu. In a written statement, they expressed that they had endured a restless and prolonged night and were seeking clarification.
According to Yehuda Cohen, 66, who held a photo of his nephew Eliya Cohen at a protest in Tel Aviv, the government has not communicated any information about the military operation. He emphasized that the release of the hostages should be the top priority. Cohen’s 27-year-old nephew was taken by Hamas from a music festival on October 7 and was seen in a video being transported to Gaza.
According to his family, he was forcibly removed from a group of deceased individuals and held as a captive.
“We implore for global intervention to aid in the safe return of our loved ones. It is our utmost priority to have them home as soon as possible, regardless of the current state of the war,” he expressed. “We are all overcome with a sense of isolation.”
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, in his first statement since the start of the war, offered to release all hostages in Gaza in exchange for the release of Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails. Sinwar stated on the group’s official website that they are prepared for an immediate exchange agreement.
In his speech, Mr Netanyahu mentioned that the concept of exchanging hostages for Palestinian prisoners was brought up in the Israeli war cabinet. However, he chose not to provide further information, stating that doing so would be detrimental.