Over one million people in northern Gaza Strip have been driven from their homes since Israel began its bombing campaign against the Palestinian group Hamas, the United Nations has said.
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The Israeli military has amassed armored vehicles on the outskirts of Gaza in preparation for a ground-based assault. Israel says it is striking back at Hamas and targetting its operatives and operational centres in retaliation to the October 6 attacks that saw over 1,400 Israelis dead and hundreds kidnapped.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday convened Israel’s expanded emergency cabinet, which includes former opposition lawmakers. “Hamas thought we would be demolished. It is we who will demolish Hamas,” he said.
Israeli authorities have said that any ground offensive on Gaza would depend on a “political decision”. In preparation for a potential attack, Israel, along with the combined might of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli Air Force (IAF), has deployed over 400,000 reservists.
The continuous bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 2,670 lives in Gaza, including over 700 children. Israel cut off all water, electricity, and food to the densely populated coastal enclave, but restored water to the southern region yesterday.
Israel has singled out Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas commander in Gaza, as the man responsible for the October 7 attacks. Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Richard Hecht has termed Sinwar as “a dead man walking”.
Israel also faces the daunting challenge of rescuing around 150 hostages who are believed to be kept in tunnels and underground bunkers by Hamas. Experts caution that Israel will lose its firepower superiority and be forced to engage the enemy in close combat as Gaza’s intricate network of tunnels is a key factor in any offensive.
The Arab League and African Union have issued stark warnings about the dire consequences of a ground offensive, going as far as saying that a potential invasion would result in “a genocide of unprecedented proportions”.
Yesterday, Billal Al Kedra, a top Hamas commander, responsible for the Kibbutz Nirim massacre in Israel, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis, a city in the south of Gaza Strip. Another Israeli airstrike on Gaza City killed Murad Abu Murad, a senior military commander of Hamas, who headed the Islamist group’s aerial operations, on Saturday.
Israel also faces the possibility of a separate war on the other side of the country on its northern border with Lebanon after artillery fire exchange with the Iran-backed Hezbollah group. Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defence Minister, has said that his country has “no interest in a war in the north”, and does not want to escalate the situation. “If Hezbollah chooses the path of war, it will pay a heavy price… but if it restrains itself, we’ll respect the situation,” he said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for de-escalation and urged Hamas to release all hostages. Mr Guterres also requested Israel to allow a passage for humanitarian aid into Gaza, saying that the region was “on the verge of the abyss”. Rafah, an Egyptian-controlled border crossing into Gaza is expected to reopen.
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