The Israeli war machine has been set in motion toward Gaza, intent on revenge. After devastating the periphery of the Palestinian strip with wave upon wave of aerial bombardments, at dawn this Thursday the army struck the bases of Hamas’ elite military unit, the Nujba force. Members of the unit led the attack last Saturday that claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis and ended with more than a hundred civilians taken hostage.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a few hours later that he would put an end to Hamas, an Islamic resistance movement that he equated with the jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS). “Just as ISIS was crushed, so too will Hamas be crushed,” he said during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Jerusalem.
The head of U.S. diplomacy guaranteed that his country will stand by Israel, but also asked Netanyahu to avoid harming the civilian population in a retaliatory military campaign that is presented as one of the most forceful in the 75 years of the Jewish state’s existence. During his visit, Blinken reported that at least 25 Americans have died in Israel since the offensive launched by Hamas.
The Israeli army stated that the command center of the Nujba unit that was attacked was made up “of terrorists selected by senior Hamas officials” and its mission is to carry out operations such as ambushes, raids, and sabotage operations, among others. The Israeli Defense Forces also claimed that they had killed Mohamed Abu Shamla, a senior commander in the Hamas naval division.
Israel has completely sealed off the Gaza Strip, except for the southern border with Egypt, the only point through which humanitarian aid is entering the Palestinian coastal exclave, where 2.3 million people are crammed into an area only slightly larger than Malta. Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz has warned Hamas that it will keep Gaza without power, fuel, water, and food supplies until it releases the hostages. “Humanitarian aid to Gaza? No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened, and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages return home,” Katz tweeted.
The toll of victims was the same on both sides of the conflict this Thursday for the first time since the beginning of Israel’s escalation of the war. The death toll since last Saturday amounts to around 1,300 on each side (later, the Palestinian Ministry of Health raised it to more than 1,400), while in Israel the wounded exceed 3,200 and in the Gaza Strip the figure reached 6,000.
Artillery and aircraft continue to pound Gaza relentlessly, Israeli and international television channels report. The channels’ military analysts said it seemed like a preliminary step aimed at paving the way for a ground operation. Early Friday morning, the United Nations announced that the Israeli army has ordered the evacuation of more than 1.1 million inhabitants in the north of the Gaza Strip to the south within the next 24 hours.
The town of Beit Hanoun in the north, near the Erez crossing, is bearing the brunt of the airstrikes. Entire blocks of houses in this town have had to be rebuilt several times in recent years, following the outbreaks of war in the Strip. The United Nations has warned through the World Food Program that food is becoming scarce in the coastal Palestinian territory.
Similarly, the operation of electricity generators depends on the supply of fuel from abroad, which has been blocked by Israel. Essential services in hospitals that depend on electricity may collapse in the coming hours, threatening the lives of critically ill patients.
From Jordan, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned violence against civilians, both for Hamas’ attacks on Israel and the subsequent bombing of Gaza by the Israeli army. “We reject the practices of killing civilians or abusing them on both sides because they contravene morals, religion and international law,” Abbas told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Speaking from Amman, after meeting with King Abdullah II, the PNA president called for an immediate and total cessation of the aggression against the Palestinian people. In his first public intervention after the Hamas attack against Israel, Abbas condemned “the death of civilians and the damage to the population”. “The Palestinians must renounce violence in order to achieve international legitimacy,” the rais said in a joint statement with the monarch of the Hashemite dynasty.
In Syria, the Israeli Armed Forces on Thursday carried out several attacks on airports in the cities of Damascus and Aleppo, as reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Ministry of Transportation said that all scheduled flights have been moved to Latakia airport on the Mediterranean coast. The Israeli offensive has damaged the runways of both airfields, leaving them temporarily out of service, according to state news agency SANA.
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