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Daily Despatch: Israel Escalates Pressure In Gaza, Signals Ground Offensive

vda58m38 daily despatch

From the frontlines of the Israel-Palestine war, String Reveals brings you daily despatches by journalist Allan Sorensen, Middle East Correspondent for Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad, giving insights and gripping first-hand accounts from the war-torn region.

Entering the seventh day of fighting since the attack on southern Israeli communities last Saturday morning, Israel called on the UN to help evacuate some 1.1 million inhabitants of the northern parts of Gaza. The request could be a signal that an Israeli ground operation in Gaza is imminent.

In an unusual request late Thursday, the Israeli Ministry of Defense told the UN that Palestinians living north of Wadi Gaza should evacuate to the southern parts within 24 hours, according to the media outlet Axios.

Gaza, over the past few days, has been under complete humanitarian blockade, with Israel cutting off food, water, medicine or fuel to the region. The Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt has been closed due to an Israeli bombardment. Gaza is relying solely on generators for electricity and its health authorities are struggling to treat more than 6,000 wounded as some places are running out of the critical equipment. The number of dead in Gaza from Israeli attacks has risen to 1,500.

Responding to the Israeli order to Gazans to move, the UN has said such a development would be “impossible” and devastating.

“The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,” the UN spokesperson told media outlets.

According to Axios, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke twice on Thursday night with the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, and asked for clarifications at the highest political level about the Israeli request.

Gilad Erdan described the official UN response as shameful and added: “For many years, the UN has turned a blind eye to the arming of Hamas and its use of the civilian population and civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip as a hiding place for its weapons and murder”.

Israel officially considers its request for the evacuation of the northern Gaza population as an early warning aiming to minimize casualties among the civilian population.

More than 4,23,000 Gazans, out of a total population of 2.3 million, have already been internally displaced since the beginning of the fighting. They are seeking shelter in schools and open areas. 

As of late Thursday night, Israeli fighter jets were still attacking targets in Gaza. Hamas responded by firing rockets on Israeli cities and villages. According to military experts talking to The Washington Post, Israel has attacked Gaza with more bombs in six days than the US used in Afghanistan in a whole year. 

The rocket attacks on Israel are less frequent and on a smaller scale compared to the beginning of this week. A possible indication that the comprehensive Israeli air raids have weakened the military abilities of Hamas.

The Syrian media claimed on Thursday that Israeli fighter jets had carried out strikes on the airports of Damascus and Aleppo, allegedly putting both out of service.

A Syrian military official told the SANA news network, “This aggression is a desperate attempt by the criminal Israeli enemy to divert attention from the crimes it is committing in Gaza, and the great losses it is suffering at the hands of the Palestinian resistance.”

In Israel, the attack on Damascus and Aleppo is described as a strong warning and a show of force to Syria and Iran, the main regional supporters of Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. The Syrian airports were allegedly attacked while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv. The timing of the Israeli attack is believed to be a clear message to the regional actors that Israel and the US stand firmly together.

Antony Blinken conveyed a strong message of support to Israel as he spoke to the media. “The message that I bring to Israel is this – You may be strong enough on your own to defend yourself, but as long as America exists, you will never, ever have to. We will always be there by your side.”

The US Gerald R Ford Carrier Group, a force of six warships headed by the Navy’s largest and most advanced nuclear aircraft carrier, has already arrived in the Mediterranean Sea to support Israel.

For the first time since Hamas carried out its deadly attack, Israel is investigating the possibility that the group hacked the phones of Israelis a month ago to gather intelligence about the music festival that was attacked on Saturday morning. Some 260 Israelis and foreigners were killed at the festival near the Re’im Kibbutz.

At the moment Israel’s national security agency Shin Bet is investigating if Hamas hacked the phones of the organizers of the festival. 

(Allan Sorensen is the Middle East correspondent for the Danish daily newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.