Hamas said on Saturday that its members in Gaza were ready to meet Israeli attacks “with full force” after Israel’s military stepped up air and ground attacks on the Palestinian territory.
The Palestinian Authority, which rules Gaza, said its fighters had clashed with Israeli troops in areas near the border with Israel after Israel announced intensified attacks in Gaza.
“In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, the ground forces are expanding their operations tonight,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised news conference Friday evening, raising questions about whether the long-awaited Maidan. The invasion of Gaza may begin.
He said Israel’s air force was carrying out extensive strikes on mines and other infrastructure dug by Hamas.
Hamas’s armed wing said its fighters clashed with Israeli troops late Friday in the northeastern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of Al-Bureij.
“Al-Qassam Brigades and all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to confront (Israel’s) occupation with full force and repel its infiltrations,” Hamas said in a statement early Saturday.
“Netanyahu and his defeated army cannot achieve any military victory,” notes the Israeli prime minister.
Israeli ground forces were massed outside Gaza, where Israel has been waging an intense campaign of aerial bombardment. Oct. 7 since deadly attacks by hundreds of Hamas gunmen on Israeli communities. Israel says 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage, some of them foreigners or dual Israeli nationals.
Al Jazeera, which broadcast live footage overnight showing frequent bombings in Gaza, said Israeli airstrikes hit areas around the enclave’s main hospital.
Reuters could not verify reports of strikes near Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
Israel’s military accused Hamas on Friday of using the hospital as a shield for its tunnels and operations centers, a charge the group denies.
UN Council backs call for humanitarian ceasefire
On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly supported a resolution by Arab states calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and demanding aid access to Gaza and the protection of civilians.
Although not binding, the resolution carries political weight, reflecting the global mood. It drew applause with 121 votes in favor, 44 abstentions and 14 – including Israel and the US – voting no.
After announcing that Israel had stepped up operations, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the United States supported an end to Israeli military action in Gaza to allow humanitarian aid, fuel and electricity to civilians there.
Kirby did not comment on the expanded ground operation. But he also said Washington supports Israel’s right to self-defense, adding: “We are not drawing red lines for Israel.”
Kirby also said the U.S. would support a localized temporary moratorium if needed to get the more than 200 hostages abducted by Hamas from Gaza.
In Gaza, telecommunications companies and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said internet and phone services had been cut as a result of Israeli bombing.
“Gaza is currently blacked out,” said Baltel, Gaza’s largest telecommunications provider.
The Red Cross said it had completely lost contact with its Gaza operations room and its teams operating there, and the Hamas-run government said rescue teams were unable to receive emergency calls.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) said it was unable to reach some Palestinian colleagues and was particularly concerned about “patients, medical staff and thousands of families seeking refuge in Al Shifa Hospital and other health facilities”.
Catherine Russell, head of the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said her agency also could no longer communicate with staff in Gaza.
“I am deeply concerned for their safety and another night of unspeakable horror for the 1 million children in #Gaza,” X posted. “All humanitarians and the children and families they serve must be protected.”
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told MSNBC that Israel was beginning its retaliation against Hamas and that “Gaza will feel our wrath tonight.”
“They will be on the receiving end of our military blows until we dismantle their military machine and dismantle their political structure in Gaza,” he told Fox News. “When this is over, Gaza will be very different.”
Israeli leaders have vowed to destroy Hamas and kill the leaders and planners of the October 7 attack, which caught Israel by surprise and shock. Israel has said it is preparing for a ground invasion but has been urged by the United States and Arab countries to delay a move that would increase civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal region and trigger a wider conflict.
Hamas, backed by Iran, Israel’s main regional rival, will take years to prepare its defenses. Over the years, Israel has developed a sophisticated network of tunnels and has fired missiles into Israel since Hamas launched its offensive this month.
Palestinian health officials say Israeli bombing has already killed more than 7,000 Palestinians.
Concerns about the risk of a wider Middle East conflict have risen in recent days as the United States has sent more military assets to the region as Israel and Hamas supporters in Lebanon and Syria hit targets.
Living under siege by Israel and Egypt since 2007, much of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed by Israeli bombing.
Power has been out for days, disabling treatment facilities and leaving Gazans without access to clean water, while half of its homes have been damaged and 20,000 apartments destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, according to the Hamas media office.
Palestinians said Israeli military warnings to move from north to south of Gaza were renewed.
Gaza residents said traveling south is extremely dangerous amid the airstrikes and southern areas have also been bombed.
Many families refused to leave, fearing a repeat of the experience of previous wars with Israel when Palestinians who fled their homes and land could never return.
(Other than the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)