On the sixth day of its war with Hamas and against the backdrop of concerns that the conflict might widen, Israel carried out attacks on two airports in Syria Thursday. That forced Iranian aircraft to land elsewhere, according to Haaretz. Meanwhile, Hamas has called for armed confrontations against Israelis outside of Gaza tomorrow.
Israeli airstrikes on Thursday hit the airports of the Syrian capital Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, damaging their runways and putting them out of service, according to The Associated Press.
“State news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying that no one was hurt in the attacks,” AP reported. “The Israeli military declined to comment."
While Israel routinely carries out strikes inside Syria, often aimed at interrupting Iranian arms shipments, these were the first since the Hamas invasion on Saturday.
The airport attacks forced at least two Iranian aircraft to land elsewhere, Haaretz reported.
One entered Syrian airspace and turned back to Tehran, the publication reported. It belongs to "Mahan Air," an airline accused by the U.S. of providing illicit lethal aid to Syria. It is “designated under counterterrorism authorities for support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), as well as under a counter-proliferation authority that targets weapons of mass destruction proliferators and their supporters,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Another Iranian plane turned around mid-air and landed shortly after the attack on Syrian airport in Baghdad, according to Haaretz.
“This is an Iranian government plane used by the Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian for his official travels.”
Abdullahian was just starting “his periodic trip to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” the official Iranian Fars News Agency reported on Twitter. “Amir Abdullahian left for Baghdad to discuss the current developments in Palestine and the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas meanwhile "renewed the call for a general mobilization tomorrow on 'Friday of the Al-Aqsa Flood,'" based on the name it is using for the bloody operation it launched last week.
The four-point plan calls for Palestinians to march toward the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, "demonstrate, mobilize and clash with the Zionist enemy" in the West Bank, return from wherever they are to Palestine. "Our Arab and Islamic nation, peoples, organizations, mosques, political movements and civil society, to go out on the Friday of the Al-Aqsa flood, and to highlight all forms of support, endorsement and solidarity with our resisting people in Gaza and all of Palestine, and to affirm that the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will not remain alone and we will not allow the implementation of a war."
In addition, Mohammed Hamada, Hamas spokesman for the city of Jerusalem, called "on the masses of our great Palestinian people, our heroic resistors, and everyone who can carry a stone, a knife, and a weapon, to mobilize urgently and confront the occupation army and its herds of settlers who are raiding and attacking our villages throughout the occupied West Bank."
Israel too is bringing its people back home to fight. For this first time in 41 years, El Al, the Israeli national airline, will fly on Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, two bring reservists back to Israel, The Times of Israel reported.
Israel also continued to keep a wary eye on its northern border, as concerns about Hezbollah entering the conflict remain ever present.
"An interceptor was launched a short time ago in the northern region due to detection in the skies of the country," IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Twitter. "An examination shows that it is not a hostile aircraft and it is a false interception."
That comes a day after citizens in northern Israel were forced to seek shelter for several hours after a false alarm about an attack from the north. You can read more about that in our story here.
While the north remains tense, Israel continued to pound targets inside Gaza while Hamas launched rocket attacks on southern and central Israel.
So far, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) said it has dropped about 6,000 bombs against Hamas targets. That number is absolutely massive considering those sorties have occurred over just five days.
The IAF has displayed a range of munitions, from rows of advanced Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) which cost about $21,000 a piece to much older unguided 750-pound M117 general-purpose bombs, a design that dates back to the Korean War.
Overnight Thursday, the IDF conducted what it says was "a wave of strikes targeting the Nukhba elite forces of the Hamas terrorist organization," by "striking operational command centers used by operatives who infiltrated the communities surrounding Gaza last Saturday."
"The Nukhba elite forces consist of terrorists selected by senior Hamas operatives, designated to carry out terrorist attacks such as ambushes, raids, assaults, infiltration through terror tunnels, as well as anti-tank missile, rocket, and sniper fire," the IDF claimed. "The Nukhba elite forces were one of the leading forces that infiltrated the State of Israel in order to carry out murderous acts of terror against its civilians."
IDF aircraft also "struck Muhammad Abu Shamla, a senior Hamas naval operative in the Rafah Brigade. Abu Shamla's residence was used to store naval weapons designated for terror against the State of Israel."
Hamas denied Israel was striking its elite forces, saying instead that Israel was hitting civilian targets.
"There is no truth to the occupation’s allegations of targeting the elite forces of the Al-Qassam Brigades, and our valiant resistance continues to confront the Zionist war of genocide ably," Hamas said Thursday on its Telegram channel. "It has no basis in fact, and that what is being targeted are residential squares and neighborhoods, razing them and leveling them to the ground, and targeting civil institutions, mosques, homes and residential buildings, which are being demolished on the heads of their residents, children and women, without warning."
There have been 1,417 Palestinians killed and another 6,268 wounded, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said that his country will continue its shutoff of water and fuel supplies to Gaza until the scores of hostages taken by Hamas are returned.
"Humanitarian aid to Gaza?," he said in a Tweet on Thursday. "No electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter until the Israeli abductees are returned home. Humanitarian for humanitarian. And no one will preach us morals."
Hamas says it fired scores of rockets and missiles at a number of Israeli cities, including Ashdod, Ashkelon, Erez and Sderot in southern Israel, as well as Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem.
The IDF says that more than 1,200 Israelis have been killed and more than 3,000 wounded since Hamas launched its invasion Saturday. Israel has been hit by more than 5,000 rockets fired from Gaza in that time, the IDF added.
U.S. Central Command announced that A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets have arrived in the region. The jets are part of a boosted U.S. military presence in the region that includes the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group.
The macabre debate over how Israeli babies were killed Saturday in a kibbutz near Kfar Aza in southern Israel continued Thursday, with The Jerusalem Post saying it confirmed that some were beheaded.
"The Jerusalem Post can now confirm based on verified photos of the bodies that the reports of babies being burnt and decapitated in Hamas's assault on Kfar Aza are correct," the publication reported Thursday. "May their memory be a blessing."
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, visiting Israel, offered his take on the condition of victims after Israeli officials showed him images of the aftermath of some of the attacks.
"A baby riddled with bullets, soldiers beheaded, young people burned alive... It's depravity in the worst imaginable way."
Yesterday we told you that President Joe Biden made a similar claim that was later walked back by the White House, which said neither Biden nor U.S. officials had independently seen the images and were reacting to statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's press office.
The IDF posted video of its 13 Sheitat special operations forces unit responding to the initial Hamas attacks.
"Launched by helicopters in a short time upon the arrival of the reports of the infiltration at the Gaza border on Saturday morning," they "joined the fighting forces in the field for a joint effort."
Reacting to the ongoing bloodshed, Jordan's King Abdullah again called for a two-state solution, with an independent Palestine established with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Along with Egypt, Jordan is one of two Arab nations to have signed a peace treaty with Israel. Sharing a border along the West Bank, Jordan has a large percentage of Palestinian citizens and the peace deal with Israel is widely unpopular. Despite that, Abdullah has walked a fine line and is considered a key ally in Washington and one of the first people in the region consulted when trouble erupts.
This is a developing story. We will update it when there is more news to report about the Israel-Hamas war.
Update: 2:16 PM EST -
The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying it will help arrange flights for U.S. citizens and families to leave Israel:
The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas.
Starting Friday, October 13, the U.S. government will arrange charter flights to assist U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who have been unable to book commercial transit and seek a safe means of departing Israel. From these locations, individuals will be able to make their own onward travel arrangements to the destination of their choice. These initial transportation options will be augmented in the coming days. Senior State Department officials are actively working with airline carriers and international partners on how best to provide additional options to U.S. citizens seeking to depart Israel or conduct onward travel to the United States. U.S. citizens in need of assistance should complete the crisis intake form on travel.state.gov.
We continue to monitor the situation closely and evaluate the demand from U.S. citizens for assistance in departing Israel on a real-time basis but expect these initial travel options to facilitate the safe departure of thousands of U.S. citizens per week. The overall security situation, availability and reliability of commercial transportation, and U.S. citizen demand will all influence the duration of this departure assistance.
We will have more to share in the coming days and will provide updates to U.S. citizens who have registered via our online form. We will continue to provide updates and assistance to U.S. citizens as the situation evolves.
Update: 3:46 PM EST -
Speaking on condition of anonymity to address U.S. support for Israel, a senior defense official spoke with reporters, including from The War Zone, Thursday afternoon.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is traveling to Israel tomorrow, to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the rest of the Israeli war cabinet. The trip is designed to send “a clear signal of the depth of the U.S. commitment to Israeli security.”
- There are deliveries being prepared “of Iron Dome [Tamir] missile interceptors, and we will continue to be responsive to Israel's requests for air defense, artillery, ammunition and precision-guided munitions.”
- The official reiterated the ability of the U.S. to supply both Ukraine and Israel: “Put simply, we are the strongest nation in the world with the most combat-credible military. We are capable of supporting Ukraine and Israel in their hours of need. Ukraine is defending freedom against Russian tyranny and Israel's defending its people against horrific terrorist acts. We feel we can do both and the cost of inaction will be much higher and more complex.”
- The official downplayed concerns about strains on U.S. weapons stocks, particularly 155mm artillery ammunition: “We are assessing all of our global stocks. I would not focus on one particular kind of ammunition but we are focused on requirements. What do the Israelis assess they need now and what do they need days and months from now? And based on that information and that level of close consultation, we are working with them on all available kinds of ammunition to respond to their needs.”
- “The requests for additional Iron Dome defense that we're discussing is most likely going to be above and beyond what Israel has already ordered.”
- “One of the categories we are working with the Israelis on are precision-guided munitions. [GBU-39/B] Small Diameter Bombs and [Joint Direct Attack Munition, or] JDAM kits are part of those categories.”
- Long-range strike “is a capability of the USS [Gerald R. Ford] Carrier Strike Group. I didn't say that that is an option on the table. We have deployed a massive amount of force to make very clear that the United States stands with Israel and to send a strong message to state and non-state actors who would even be considering escalating this conflict, I think this is very important for these leaders and these groups to understand the full capability of the US military which we have put in the eastern Mediterranean.”
- The official declined to offer specifcs on why the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was moved out of Kuwait: “We are constantly moving our Marine and naval assets around the theater based on what the requirements are. We have military personnel that are part of the U.S. embassy team. And on any given day, they are overseeing cooperation, security assistance, managing senior leader visits, or providing specific support and exercises for specific needs of our partner. In this case, those U.S. military personnel are providing advice on hostage recovery, which obviously is a really significant concern and priority for both the United States and Israel.”
Update: 5:05 PM EST—
Netanyahu offers more very strong language on the goals of Israel's military operation going forward and reveals a staffer's family member was included in those who were taken hostage in Gaza.
The Mayor of Sedrot is asking for his city to being fully evacuated, stating "it's not safe here." The city of 30,000 sits less than a mile from the Gaza border and injuries and deaths have already occurred from recent rocket fire. Sedrot was also a central focus for Hamas gunmen who stormed the city's police station on October 7th. Dozens died in that attack and its aftermath.
The IDF says it is now in place and ready to move into Gaza when the order is given.
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