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Israel warns that the war “will be long” and will leave “scenes difficult to digest” in Gaza

A week after the surprise attack by Hamas, the “revenge” promised by Benjamin Netanyahu advances with the biggest bombings in Gaza in memory and enters a new phase with the first ground incursions into its territory. Daniel Hagari, military spokesman for the Defense Forces, confirmed that his troops, with the support of tanks, penetrated Gazan soil to locate rocket launchers and obtain information about the places where the militants are hiding the hostages. The very existence of captives in the hands of the Islamist organization – there could be more than a hundred – seemed to be an Achilles heel that conditioned Israel’s movements, but the army has not changed its plans and is moving forward with determination towards the ground offensive.

The first incursion came after the twenty-four-hour ultimatum imposed by Tel Aviv on residents in the north of the Strip to abandon settlements and move to the south. The problem is that a ceasefire was not offered, so those who fled did so in the middle of the bombing. At press time, explosions lit up the night in numerous parts of Gaza where Israel claimed there were Islamist installations. According to an official statement, one of the ground raids destroyed a Hamas anti-tank missile battery.

Israel prepared its allies for a “long and hard war,” as Netanyahu repeated in a televised intervention in which for the first time he did not respect the Sabbath (holy day for Jews). He also hopes that “when things get bad” and “the scenes in Gaza are difficult to digest” the governments and organizations that support him will stand firmly by his side, in the words of military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

The massive accumulation of forces on the border, an endless caravan of bulldozers and armored vehicles loaded on trucks and entire fields converted into parking lots for tanks, outlined this Friday the scene of a ground operation at the gates of Gaza, near the town of Zikim. This is the last checkpoint to which the army allows the press access. From here on it’s a war zone. A few kilometers away, at the Ministry of Defense located in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu met for the first time with the recently created emergency government to analyze the situation on the front.

Vespers

Troops, tanks and bulldozers gathered yesterday, in a tense wait, on the border line

the day of wrath

Eleven Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire in West Bank protests

The Gazans received a message from the Defense Forces early in the morning asking them to leave the north of the Strip and seek refuge in the southern part, beyond the river. The military spokesman considered this announcement as “a humanitarian step to reduce civilian casualties” and accused Hamas of fighting in urban areas and using citizens as “human shields.” The army published a map – and released it on leaflets – to indicate the route to follow for the million people it is urging to leave, in the midst of the harshest bombings that Gaza has ever suffered.

This message received an immediate response from the United Nations, which said that this massive population movement is “impossible” to put into practice without having “devastating humanitarian consequences,” in the words of the spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric. The UN made a “strong call” for this order “to be rescinded to prevent a situation that is already a tragedy from becoming another disastrous one.”

Several men carry a corpse in the south of the Strip.

Reuters


In anticipation of a worsening situation, the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) decided to relocate its main operations center and its non-local staff to the south to continue its humanitarian missions. The WHO also described Israel’s measure as a “death sentence” for those “seriously ill people whose injuries mean that their only chance of survival is to be connected to life support, such as mechanical ventilators.”

Enemy “propaganda”

Hamas asked the Palestinian population not to pay attention to enemy “propaganda.” However, throughout the day thousands of people – more than 400,000, according to some media – took the route south, many on foot. Others decided to stay at home. “I’m not leaving. If we all leave there will be more than a million and I don’t see anything clear about what will happen. Most of us stay, we have nowhere to go, whatever God wants,” was the response of Kayed Hammad, a worker and producer in Gaza City.

In your context

  • 3,200 fatalities
    The war has already cost. In Gaza, 1,900 deaths and 7,696 injuries were recorded on Friday night, while on the Israeli side, 1,300 deaths and 3,000 injuries were reported.

  • “It’s just the beginning,” says Netanyahu
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last night that the offensive in Gaza “is just the beginning” and added that “we hit our enemies with unprecedented force.”

  • 120 Spaniards are still in Israel.
    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to coordinate with other countries for their evacuation “when possible.”

  • Crossfire with Hezbollah
    Israel and Hezbollah held a new exchange of rocket fire on the northern border this Friday. A group of Lebanese fighters attempted to enter Israeli territory after breaking through the fence, but were killed.

The Islamists called for a “day of wrath” or jihad that was widely followed in the West Bank where, after midday prayer, violent clashes with security forces were recorded in places such as Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus, Hebron or Tulkarem. At least eleven Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire during marches in solidarity with Gaza. In total, 44 have already lost their lives in the occupied territories since the start of the war in the Strip, which indicates that tension is at its highest level.

The border with Egypt was closed for another day this Friday and the authorities in Cairo made it clear that they are not willing to receive a wave of refugees. Humanitarian aid from countries such as Jordan, Iraq and Turkey is already deposited at the Al Arish airport, but with the Egyptian crossing closed it cannot reach Gaza. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Israel to allow the entry of this type of merchandise, but received no response.

Before giving the ultimatum to evacuate northern Gaza, Israel received visits from the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Secretary of Defense, Austin Lloyd, who offered it full support. Washington called the order to evacuate one million civilians a “difficult task” but considered it a “fair warning” to the population, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

After his meetings in Israel and Jordan, where he met with the ‘missing’ Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken flew to Qatar, the country that most strongly supports Hamas. This visit may be key to determining how long this war may last.

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