Israel sent tanks, troops and armoured bulldozers into the Gaza Strip in a “targeted raid” overnight that destroyed multiple sites before withdrawing from the Hamas-ruled territory, the army said Thursday.
Black smoke billowed into the sky after a blast in the grainy night-vision footage the military released hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared preparations for a ground war were under way.
On the 20th day of Israel’s deadliest Gaza war yet, launched in retaliation for the bloody October 7 Hamas attacks, the army said its forces had hit “numerous terrorist cells, infrastructure and anti-tank missile launch posts”.
The operation in northern Gaza came in “preparation for the next stages of combat”, it said.
The black-and-white video showed a column of armoured vehicles moving near Gaza’s border fence. Other footage appeared to show an air strike and buildings being struck with munitions, sending debris flying.
Just hours earlier, Netanyahu had delivered a nationally televised address to Israelis still grieving and furious after Hamas’s bloody October 7 attacks, telling them “we are in the midst of a campaign for our existence”.
Netanyahu — amid the growing calls to temper the ferocious bombing campaign — said Israel had been “raining down hellfire on Hamas” and killing “thousands of terrorists”.
He said his war cabinet and the military would determine the timing of a “ground offensive” with the goal to “eliminate Hamas” and “bring our captives home”. But he stressed that “I will not detail when, how or how many” forces would take part.
Amnesty International in a statement called for an immediate ceasefire to ensure “access to life-saving aid for people in Gaza amidst an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe”. The human rights group’s chief Agnes Callamard said: “Serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, by all parties to the conflict continue unabated.”
Leaders of the 27-member European Union were on Thursday debating whether to call for a “humanitarian pause” in the war to deliver desperately needed aid. In The Hague, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, branded Israel’s Gaza offensive a “war of revenge”, and called for a ceasefire.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Cairo on Wednesday, warned that “a massive intervention that would put civilian lives at risk would be an error”. And Jordan’s King Abdullah II said anger at the suffering could “lead to an explosion” in the Middle East.
‘Almost 50’ Israeli hostages killed, says Hamas
Palestinian military group Hamas’s armed wing claimed that “almost 50” Israeli hostages were killed “as a result” of Israeli strikes in Gaza, news agency AFP reported on Thursday. The news agency, however, could not immediately verify the claim. The statement by Hamas came after Israel said its tanks and infantry launched an overnight raid into Hamas-controlled Gaza. Several militant targets were attacked as a wider ground incursion loomed after more than two weeks of war.
The Hamas-run health ministry said on Thursday that at least 7,028 people have been killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes since October 7 – when the fighting between Israel and Hamas first broke out.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials claimed that the ongoing war has killed more than 1,400 people in Israel.
Israel’s military also raised the number of remaining hostages in Gaza to 222 people, reports claimed. Several foreign nationals are believed to have been captured by Hamas during the incursion. Four hostages have been released so far, news agency Associated Press reported.