Israeli tanks moved into Gaza overnight, in what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described as a “targeted raid.” The move is widely seen as paving the way for a long-expected ground invasion of the Strip, something that Israel apparently agreed to temporarily delay, allowing the United States to deploy additional air defense assets to protect its troops in the region. You can read more about that development — and our previous coverage of the conflict — here.
“IDF forces under the command of the Givati Brigade tonight carried out a targeted raid using tanks in the territory of the northern Gaza Strip, as part of the preparation of the area for the next stages of combat,” the IDF said. “As part of the activity, the forces located and attacked many terrorists, destroyed terrorist infrastructures, anti-tank positions, and carried out work to organize the area. The troops left the area at the end of the mission.”
The Givati Brigade, which is part of the 162nd Armored Division, is reported to have returned from the raid without having suffered any casualties.
A video released by the IDF shows armored vehicles, including at least a dozen Merkava main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles — some with ‘cope cage’ overhead anti-drone protection — moving through a sandy border zone. The column includes an armored bulldozer that is seen demolishing part of a raised bank. The vehicles cross through an opening in the Gaza border wall and tanks open fire on a nearby built-up area. Explosions are seen ripping through several buildings.
“Through the raid, we eliminated terrorists, neutralized threats, dismantled explosives, neutralized ambushes, in order to enable the next stages of the war for the ground forces,” said Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
While this is not the first time that the IDF has entered Gaza since the latest conflict began on October 7, it certainly appears to be the most significant in terms of scale. Israel’s Army Radio said the overnight action was the biggest incursion of the current war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night that Israel was “preparing for a ground invasion” of Gaza.
“All Hamas members are dead men,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “Above ground, underground, in Gaza, and outside Gaza.”
In other comments, Netanyahu spoke of Israel “raining down hellfire” on Gaza and noted that a major ground offensive was still going to happen.
“I cannot say when, how or how many, nor all the elements that we are taking into account, of which most are not known to the public,” he said.
Regardless, with Israeli tanks and troops massed on the border with Gaza, it seems that the countdown to that invasion is now very much on. Reports suggest that Israel has also called up 360,000 reservists.
Photos released today by Getty Images show that the Israeli Air Force is closely monitoring the situation in Gaza, with photos of a Nachshon Shavit surveillance aircraft operating over the border. As you can read about here, the Nachshon Shavit is primarily a signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, able to eavesdrop on Hamas communications, for example. The Shavit can also detect emissions from threats, including hostile radars and drones, which can then be targeted.
Meanwhile, there are various factors that complicate exactly when Israel might launch such an offensive in Gaza.
The U.S. request to delay an invasion so it can reinforce its air defense capabilities in the region are a product of the lingering concerns that the war between Israel and Hamas could also trigger a wider conflict with deeper involvement from Hezbollah and/or Iran.
There have already been repeated attacks on bases where U.S. personnel are stationed in Syria and Iraq. While the Defense Department had said that these drone and rocket assaults only resulted in minor injuries and one contractor's death due to a heart attack, now it's becoming clear that 19 personnel has suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) as a result.
Then there is the issue of getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza, which many members of the international community are now pushing for, as the situation there for the resident population worsens. Israel has limited the supplies of electricity, water, and food going into Gaza, worsening the conditions of an enclave that was already blockaded since Hamas took power in 2007. The United States is now trying to negotiate a deal to allow foreign nationals trapped in Gaza to leave via the border crossing with Egypt.
Meanwhile, Hamas still holds more than 200 hostages, captured during its incursion into Israel, which killed 1,400 people and injured more than 5,400, according to Israeli officials. So far only four hostages have been released and Israel is facing calls for more time to help negotiate the release of more. Among the hostages are citizens or dual citizens of at least 25 different countries.
Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes continue in Gaza, as the following videos indicate.
Among those airstrikes, the IDF claims it targeted and killed the head of Hamas’s North Khan Younis rocket array, Hassan al-Abdullah. According to a report in the Times of Israel, the IDF said that it was working on the basis of intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security agency and Military Intelligence Directorate.
The IDF also says that Israeli fighters targeted and killed several more Hamas members today, and destroyed several sites belonging to the militant group.
On the Palestinian side, officials claim that at least 7,028 people have been killed and more than 17,400 injured in strikes on Gaza since Israel launched its military response to the Hamas incursion.
These claims have not been independently verified. Yesterday, President Joe Biden said he had “no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using” for the death toll, in response to which the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it was “deeply disturbed” by Biden’s comments.
Videos from Israel also indicate that there has been no let-up in the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip, with the Iron Dome air defense systems again seen in action. The Iron Dome, which the IDF first declared operational in 2011, is mainly used to counter rockets, mortar rounds, and artillery shells but has also capabilities against cruise missiles and drones.
Hamas also claims to have used its most powerful, largest rocket with a far greater range than its usual fare — the Ayyash-250. Israel confirmed the launch of a longer-range rocket yesterday but said it fell harmlessly into an unpopulated area.
This is a developing story. We will provide updates when there is new information to report about the Israel-Hamas war.
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