ISRAELI Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told troops gathered at the Gaza border on Thursday that they would soon see the Palestinian enclave “from inside”, suggesting an expected ground invasion with the aim of annihilating Hamas could be nearing.
Israel pounded Gaza with more air strikes on Thursday over the Oct 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 Israelis.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed US President Joe Biden with a visit to demonstrate Western support for the war against Hamas militants. Sunak also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who called the targeting of Gaza civilians “heinous”.
Israel has put the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under siege and bombarded the enclave in strikes that have killed thousands and made more than a million homeless.
In Gaza’s north, footage obtained by Reuters from the Jabaliya refugee camp showed residents digging with their bare hands inside a damaged building to free a small boy and girl trapped under masonry. The body of a man was also pulled out.
“You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come,” Gallant told soldiers. Troops were not expected to enter while foreign leaders were visiting.
Shortly after Gallant’s statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video of himself with troops near the border promising victory.
“All the indications are that the worst is coming,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters in Amman.
Biden scheduled a televised address for 8pm ET on Thursday (8am today) about the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine, underscoring “how support from the American people and the Congress, frankly, is essential”, according to an aide. Biden is expected to propose billions more US dollars in aid to the two countries.
The president visited Israel briefly on Wednesday in the turmoil after a Gaza hospital explosion that Palestinians blamed on an Israeli air strike but that Israel said was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian militants. Biden backed the Israeli account.
An unclassified US intelligence report sighted by Reuters on Thursday estimated that the death toll from the hospital blast was “probably at the low end of the 100 to 300 spectrum” but added that the assessment may evolve. It said only light structural damage had been observed at the hospital.
Palestinian officials had said 471 people were killed in the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital late on Tuesday (Oct 17) while Israel’s foreign ministry said “dozens” of people died.
In a statement, Hamas reported an explosion on Thursday at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City where Christians were taking shelter. Hamas reported “huge damage” and “many casualties” at the church dating to the 12th century. – Oct 20, 2023
Pics credit: Reuters