The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) continued its attack inside the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning with tanks, infantry and combat forces, following a night of intense airstrikes described by residents as the worst since the war started. Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari called it “massive and very significant.” The largest incursion of ground forces to date started late Friday afternoon. The operation’s scope and the timing of a months-long invasion to “completely eliminate Hamas” remain unclear. Hagari’s statement on Saturday used words like “expansion of land activity,” “intense fire,” and “the next phase of war.” Little information is coming out of an isolated Gaza due to the communications and internet blackout that started on Friday.
The Hamas Ministry of Health has not yet released casualty figures from Friday night. The death toll in Gaza has already exceeded 7,350 (with a significant number of minors and women) after the October 7 attack by Hamas that killed over 1,400 Israelis. Red Crescent first responders have been unable to reach many attack sites in Gaza. Local media and social networks have published images showing powerful and continuous aerial bombings, along with the sounds of panicked children and women who cannot be seen in the darkness. Firefights have also been reported along the Gaza-Israel border. Hamas said on Saturday its militiamen in the Strip were ready to confront Israeli attacks with “full force.”
Residents in Gaza cited by local news media report that the latest overnight airstrikes were the most intense since the war started, especially in the northern areas of Beit Lahia, Beit Hanun and the Jabalia refugee camp near Gaza City where the IDF claims to have struck “150 underground targets.” The IDF issued an evacuation order to over a million people in the northern half of the Gaza Strip, and around 700,000 citizens complied and moved south. Soon after, the IDF bombed Khan Yunis in the south, where most of the Strip’s population is now concentrated.
The IDF released a video showing dozens of armored combat vehicles firing their weapons as they advanced in formation through Gaza. Based on the images, it seems they are near the border barriers and the seashore, moving from north to south. The IDF has also reported the deaths of two Hamas leaders: Asem Abu Rakaba (believed to be responsible for the Hamas drones, paragliders and air defenses during the October 7 surprise attack), and Ratib Abu Tzahiban (commander of the Hamas naval brigade at Gaza City). John Kirby, the White House National Security spokesperson, said the U.S. hasn’t drawn any “red lines” for Israel in this war, but does support humanitarian ceasefires
The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed deep concern about the intense bombing in Gaza as evacuating patients and finding shelter have become near impossible due to the constant airstrikes. The blackout has also hindered ambulance access to the injured, and communications between emergency workers and health facilities remains disrupted. Other NGOs and international organizations have also reported difficulty communicating with their staff in Gaza.
The families of the more than 200 hostages in Gaza said they suffered the most harrowing night of the war at the thought of their loved ones enduring the relentless Israeli barrage. While Qatar is working to secure their release, relatives of these hostages have requested an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. The spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing stated that over 50 hostages have been killed during the IDF assault, now in its third week. Israeli military analysts said it aims to pressure Hamas into releasing as many people as possible through stepped-up airstrikes, a complete fuel blockade, and very limited humanitarian aid for southern Gaza.
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