Even as Israel said it has again sealed off the Gaza border and is restoring barriers destroyed during Hamas's invasion on Saturday, fighting inside Israel continued Wednesday evening.
“IDF soldiers from Battalion 101 identified several vehicles, including terrorists, near Nir Am,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), said late Wednesday evening local time on his Telegram channel. “A tank from the 401st Brigade fired at them and killed three terrorists. IDF forces are now continuing their searches in the area.”
Nir Am is about a mile from the Gaza border. The incident, five days into the latest Israel-Hamas war, comes as Israeli forces have set up a buffer zone around Gaza. It highlights the fragility of Israel’s hold over the densely populated swath of land even as it masses hundreds of thousands of troops for a major incursion.
“The IDF emphasizes that the area of the Gaza Division has been declared a closed military zone and reiterates that entry is strictly prohibited and constitutes a serious security risk, as well as a criminal offense,” the IDF said on its Telegram channel Wednesday. “IDF soldiers are conducting combat activity in the area and entering it endangers lives as well as harms the IDF’s activities. The IDF asks the public to be alert, and not to enter the prohibited area in order to allow the security forces to continue to carry out their missions.”
Meanwhile, Israel continues to pound targets in Gaza.
Wednesday night, the Israeli Air Force posted video of a strike it said it carried out on multi-story building used by the Islamic Jihad.
Earlier Wednesday, the IAF said it struck Islamic University in Gaza.
“IDF fighter jets struck an important operational, political and military center belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip - the Islamic University,” the IDF said Wednesday. “The university was being used as a Hamas training camp for military intelligence operatives, as well as for the development and production of weapons.”
The IDF claimed that Hamas “used university conferences to raise funds for terrorism. The university maintained close ties with the senior leadership of Hamas. The IDF is continuing wide-scale strikes in the Gaza Strip at this time.”
Hamas continues to launch rockets toward Israel, sending large barrages north to the coastal city of Ashkelon, about seven miles from the Gaza border. Video that emerged on social media shows Tamir interceptors fired by Israel's vaunted Iron Dome air defense system engaging at least some of the flood of rockets, contrary to messaging earlier in the day from Hamas.
"The occupied city of Ashkelon is burned by Qassam rocket attacks, with the absence of sirens and the failure of the Iron Dome," Hamas said earlier Wednesday.
Hamas also carried out what appears to be its longest range rocket attack of this war, firing one that landed near Carmel, about 75 miles north of Gaza.
"Following the initial report regarding sirens that sounded in the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council in northern Israel, a rocket launch was identified from the Gaza Strip," the IDF reported on its Telegram channel. "No interceptors were launched according to protocol."
"Settlers flee from Haifa, northern occupied Palestine, after being bombed by Al-Qassam Brigades missiles," Hamas boasted on its Telegram channel, posting video of residents seeking shelter which you can see below.
As both sides bombard each other and people succumb to the injuries suffered during the Hamas invasion, the casualty count on both sides continues to rise.
There have been 1,100 Palestinians killed and 5,339 injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
There have been at least 1,200 Israelis killed and 2,400 wounded, Haaretz is reporting.
Even while his country is being invaded by Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has suggested that world leaders visit Israel, a statement he made ahead of the latest meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels, Belgium.
After that meeting, both U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and new Joint Chiefs Chairman, Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown both addressed the situation in Israel.
Asked about whether the U.S. can continue supplying arms to both Israel and Ukraine, Brown said "absolutely we can do both and we will do both."
As for whether Hezbollah or Iran might take action against Israel, Brown said he has "not seen any indications of additional players that are going to get involved to the detriment of Israel, and this is one of the reasons we addressed at our force posture."
That was a reference to the U.S. moving the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean. Those ships arrived yesterday.
Austin deferred to the Israelis when asked if an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is imminent.
"I'll let Israel talk about its plans and its operations, and I won't evaluate things one way or the other," he said. "My goal and I know the focus of our leadership is to provide support to the Israeli Defense Force - focus on what they need, what they're asking for and to get it there as quickly as possible. We... liaison with the Israeli Defense Forces. I've talked to the minister of defense near daily since this started, and so we really feel like we have a good feel for what they need. But in terms of their detailed plans, what they're going to do, what they're not going to do, I would defer to them."
The White House on Wednesday again addressed the issue of Americans killed and captured in Israel.
"We know that, so far, 22 Americans lost their lives and 17 remain unaccounted for. We know that these numbers are likely to increase in the days ahead," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
"We know that a number of those Americans are being held hostage right now by Hamas," White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. "I think we all need to steel ourselves for the very distinct possibility that these numbers will keep increasing and that we may, in fact, find out that more Americans are part of the hostage pool."
As for the possible deployment of the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier group to the region, Kirby said "no decisions have been made" about it heading to the eastern Mediterranean to join the Ford's carrier group.
"No operational decisions like that have been made, but she will be heading in that direction, her ships will be with her, and she certainly will be an available asset if needed."
Concern over Hezbollah entering the war is so great that human error with a warning messaging app led to a large swatch of Israel locked down for several hours, which you can read more about in our story here.
President Joe Biden today confirmed that babies were found at a kibbutz near Kfar Ava with their heads cut off.
CNN reported that a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also confirmed that.
Hamas, however, has vociferously denied those allegations.
"The Hamas movement categorically denies the fabricated allegations promoted by some Western media outlets, which unprofessionally adopt the Zionist narrative full of lies and slander against our Palestinian people and their resistance, the latest of which was the claim of killing children, beheading them, and targeting civilians," Hamas said Wednesday on its Telegram channel. "We affirm that the Palestinian resistance does not target children, and the Western media must be accurate and not blindly side with the Zionist narrative, which is full of lies and slander."
More horrific images have emerged from the Hamas invasion. (Author's note: While the tweet below won't embed, readers can view it here. Viewer discretion is advised).
As Hamas forces attacked, they were apparently carrying leaflets with instructions on out how to defeat various Israeli armored vehicles.
Days after the invasion, we are beginning to see some of the weapons used by Hamas, including Iranian-made Misagh-1 man-portable air defense systems. It's surely highly concerning to Israel that these are floating around Gaza as they can be used on civilian and military aircraft alike.
Israelis the world over are heading back home to join the fight.
Hamas, meanwhile, has called for Muslims and Arabs to continue showing support and join the fight.
Around the world, there are public shows of support for both sides.
We will continue to update this story as new information comes in.
Update: 8:50 PM EST -
The White House clarified remarks Biden made about allegations that decapitated babies were found after the Hamas attack on a kibbutz near Kfar Aza.
"A White House spokesman later clarified that U.S. officials and the president have not seen pictures or confirmed such reports independently," The Washington Post reported. "The president based his comments about the alleged atrocities on claims from Netanyahu's spokesman and media reports from Israel, according to the White House."
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