Israel Makes an Hours-Long Raid Into Northern Gaza, Prepping for Ground Invasion and a Years-Long Effort To Root Out and Destroy Hamas
‘The campaign will soon ramp up with greater force,’ says former premier, Benny Gantz.
RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli troops and tanks launched an hours-long ground raid into northern Gaza overnight, the military said, striking several terrorist targets in order to “prepare the battlefield” before a widely expected ground invasion after more than two weeks of devastating airstrikes.
The raid came after the United Nation warned that it’s on the verge of running out of fuel in the Gaza Strip, forcing it to sharply curtail relief efforts in the territory, which has also been under a complete siege since Hamas’ bloody rampage across southern Israel ignited the war earlier this month.
The rising death tolls in Gaza are unprecedented in the decades-long Arab war against Israel. The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Wednesday that more than 750 people were killed over the past 24 hours, higher than the 704 killed the previous day.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry also says more than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war. The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify the death toll, and the Hamas health ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants. By comparison, 2,251 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the entire six-week-long war in 2014, according to UN figures.
The whole question of the death toll in Gaza is under dispute. At the White House yesterday, President Biden pointedly declared that he does not trust the death toll numbers from Gaza, where not only the health services but all other departments of the government are controlled by Hamas, which in turn is controlled by Iran. “I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using,” Mr. Biden said.
On Wednesday, the wife, son, daughter, and grandson of Wael Dahdouh, a veteran Al-Jazeera correspondent in Gaza, were killed in an Israeli strike. The Israeli military says it only strikes militant targets and accuses Hamas of operating among civilians in densely-populated Gaza. Palestinian Arab terrorists have firing rocket barrages into Israel since the war began.
Israel has vowed to crush Hamas’ capacity to govern Gaza or to threaten again the Jewish state, while also saying it doesn’t want to reoccupy the territory from which it withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005. That could prove a daunting challenge, since Hamas is deeply rooted in Palestinian society, with political and charity organizations as well as a formidable armed wing.
Benny Gantz, a retired general and a member of Israel’s war Cabinet, said the any possible ground offensive would be only “one stage in a long-term process that includes security, political and social aspects that will take years.”
“The campaign will soon ramp up with greater force,” he added.
During the overnight raid, soldiers killed fighters and destroyed militant infrastructure and anti-tank missile launching positions, the military said. It said that no Israelis were wounded. There was no immediate confirmation of any Palestinian casualties.
Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a military spokesman for Israel, said that the limited incursion was “part of our preparations for the next stages of the war.”
Israel also said it had also carried out around 250 airstrikes across Gaza in the last 24 hours, targeting tunnel shafts, rocket launchers and other militant infrastructure.
The warning by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, over depleting fuel supplies raised alarm that the humanitarian crisis could quickly worsen.
Gaza’s population has also been running out of food, water and medicine. About 1.4 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have fled their homes, with nearly half of them crowded into U.N. shelters. Hundreds of thousands remain in northern Gaza, despite Israel ordering them to evacuate to the south, saying those who remain might be considered “accomplices” of Hamas.
In recent days, Israel has let more than 60 trucks with aid enter from Egypt, which aid workers say is insufficient and only a tiny fraction of what was being brought in before the war. Israel is still barring deliveries of fuel — needed to power generators — saying it believes that Hamas will take it.
An official with the International Committee of the Red Cross said that it hopes to bring in eight trucks filled with vital medical supplies.
“This is a small amount of what is required, a drop in the ocean,” said William Schomburg, head of the sub-delegation in Gaza. “We are trying to establish a pipeline.”
UNRWA has been sharing its own fuel supplies so that trucks can distribute aid, bakeries can feed people in shelters, water can be desalinated, and hospitals can keep incubators, life support machines and other vital equipment working.
If it continues doing all of that, fuel will run out by Thursday, so the agency is deciding how to ration its supply, UNRWA spokeswoman Tamara Alrifai told The Associated Press.
“Do we give (it) for the incubators or the bakeries?” she said. “It is an excruciating decision.”
More than half of Gaza’s primary health care facilities and roughly a third of its hospitals have stopped functioning, the World Health Organization said.
At Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital, the lack of medicine and clean water have led to “alarming” infection rates, the group Doctors Without Borders said. Amputations are often required to prevent infection from spreading in the wounded, it said.
One surgeon with the group described amputating half the foot of a 9-year-old boy with only “slight sedation” on a hallway floor as his mother and sister watched.
The conflict has also threatened to spread across the region. The Israeli military said Wednesday it struck military sites in Syria in response to rocket launches from the country. Syrian state media said that eight soldiers were killed and seven others were wounded.
Israel has also been under attack from Lebanon, where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization has been firing into Israel. Israeli airstrikes and drone attacks early Thursday caused fires in open land in the southern Lebanon border town of Aita al Shaab, where clashes have intensified, Lebanon’s state-run news agency said. It reported strikes late Wednesday on towns in the Tyre district, saying that what it called a mattress factory was hit.
Hamas’ attack on October 7 at southern Israel stunned the country with its barbarity, its unprecedented toll, and the failure of intelligence agencies to detect that it was coming. Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a speech Wednesday evening that he would be held accountable, but only after Hamas was defeated.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened,” he said. “This debacle will be investigated. Everyone will have to give answers, including me.”