June 7, 2024

Central News

at the center of it

Israel tank raid to “prepare battlefield” in Gaza, says PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Palestinians look for survivors amid the rubble of a building hit in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

ISRAELI infantry backed by tanks and armoured bulldozers have attacked Hamas targets in an hours-long overnight ground raid into the northern Gaza Strip, as officials raised the number of hostages confirmed to be held by the militant Islamist group to 224.
The raid came as European Union (EU) leaders were set to call for the establishment of “humanitarian corridors and pauses” to get urgently needed aid into Gaza, according to the final draft of a text expected’ to be approved at a summit in Brussels today, Thursday.
Grainy video footage released by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) showed a column of at least a dozen main battle tanks and other armoured vehicles crossing through an opening in the Gaza border wall and firing on a nearby built-up area of damaged buildings.
Although Israeli troops have been raiding frequently into Gaza in the recent fighting, this incursion was described as far more significant in scale and aimed at shaping the conditions for fighting in immediate border areas for the “next stages of the war.”
Intense bombardment
A report in The Guardian (of London) to which both Reuters, and the Associated Press agencies contributed, says the troops – who according to Israeli media reports came from the Givati brigade and 162nd Armoured Division – returned from the raid without casualties.
“Through the raid, we eliminated terrorists, neutralised threats, dismantled explosives, neutralised ambushes, in order to enable the next stages of the war for the ground forces,” said Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
Israel has been bombarding Gaza since October 7, 2023 when Hamas gunmen poured across the border, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping others.
More than 6,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, in reprisal attacks, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and there are fears the toll could rise further if Israel pushes ahead with the ground invasion.
This week, the wife, son, daughter and grandson of a veteran Al Jazeera journalist, Wael al-Dahdouh, were killed in an Israeli strike, his employer said.
1.4m Palestinians at risk
The Israeli military claims it only strikes militant targets and accuses Hamas of operating among civilians in densely populated Gaza. Palestinian militants have fired rocket barrages into Israel since the war began.
With tens of thousands of troops massed at the Gaza border, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel was “raining down hellfire” and that a substantive ground offensive was being prepared.
“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.
Amid mounting international concerns over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, the European Council is set to add its voice to those calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow aid access to 1.4 million Palestinians who have been displaced by the fighting.
The draft text of an official EU declaration says: “The European Council expresses its gravest concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and calls for continued, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access and aid to reach those in need through all necessary measures including humanitarian corridors and pauses.
“The EU will work closely with partners in the region to protect civilians, provide assistance and facilitate access to food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, ensuring that such assistance is not abused by terrorist organisations.”
Hamas, Israel adamant
Since the conflict erupted on October 7, the IDF has made a number of incursions to investigate Hamas positions and gather information about hostages.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization called for Hamas to provide proof of life of the hostages it was holding and to release them all on health grounds.
“Many of the hostages, including children, women and the elderly, have pre-existing health conditions requiring urgent and sustained care and treatment. The mental health trauma that the abducted, and the families, are facing is acute and psychosocial support is of great importance,” says WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.
Despite the growing international alarm at the civilian impact inside Gaza, senior Israeli figures and Hamas – which is listed as a proscribed terrorist group in a number of countries, including the UK – raised the prospect of an intensification of the conflict, with Saleh al-Arouri, the Lebanon-based deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, saying that “the [real] battles have not yet begun”.
On the Israeli side, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and a former IDF chief of staff, told Israeli radio today Thursday, “The war will soon enter new stages and [will be fought] with greater intensity.”