The Israeli military, with the support of tanks and armored bulldozers, conducted a ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip targeting Hamas. Officials have reported an increase in the number of confirmed hostages held by the militant group to 224 during the hours-long overnight raid.
The attack coincided with EU leaders planning to demand the creation of “humanitarian corridors and breaks” to deliver much-needed assistance to Gaza. This is stated in the latest version of a document to be endorsed at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
The IDF released blurry video footage that depicted a group of around twelve main battle tanks and other armored vehicles entering through a gap in the Gaza border wall. They can be seen firing on a nearby area with damaged buildings.
Even though Israeli soldiers have been frequently entering Gaza during the recent conflict, this particular invasion was considered much larger in scope and had the goal of influencing the circumstances for future fighting in the nearby border areas during the “next stages of the war”.
The soldiers, reportedly from the Givati brigade and 162nd Armoured Division according to Israeli media, returned unharmed from the operation.
“The Israeli military spokesperson, R Adm Daniel Hagari, stated that the raid successfully eliminated terrorists and neutralized threats, as well as dismantling explosives and ambushes. These efforts were essential in facilitating the next stages of the ground forces’ war.”
Since October 7th, Israel has been attacking Gaza after Hamas members crossed the border and caused the deaths of 1,400 individuals, primarily civilians. They also took others as hostages.
According to the health ministry controlled by Hamas, over 6,500 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza. There is concern that this number could increase if Israel continues with their plans for a ground invasion.
According to his employer, a veteran journalist for Al Jazeera named Wael al-Dahdouh lost his wife, son, daughter, and grandson in an Israeli attack this week.
The Qatar-based network showed footage of his grief upon entering a hospital and seeing his dead son. Dahdouh and other mourners attended the funerals on Thursday wearing the blue flak jackets used by reporters in the Palestinian territories.
The Israeli military asserts that it solely attacks targets belonging to militant groups and blames Hamas for hiding among civilians in the crowded Gaza area. Palestinian militants have launched multiple rocket attacks into Israel during the ongoing conflict.
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.
He stated that the date, method, number, and majority of the factors that we are considering are not publicly known.
With increasing global worry about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the European Council was preparing to join others in advocating for a temporary ceasefire to permit aid delivery to 1.4 million displaced Palestinians.
The proposed statement from the European Union expresses deep worry about the worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza and urges for uninterrupted and speedy delivery of aid to those in need. This should be done through various means, such as humanitarian corridors and temporary halts.
The European Union plans to collaborate with regional allies to safeguard civilians, offer aid, and assist with obtaining food, water, medical treatment, fuel, and shelter. This aid will be closely monitored to prevent exploitation by terrorist groups.
Since the outbreak of conflict on October 7th, the IDF has conducted several raids to assess Hamas positions and obtain intelligence on hostages.
During the raid, Israel conducted attacks on approximately 250 sites overnight, including a strike by the Israeli navy on a ground-to-air missile launcher near Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The conflict in Gaza persisted while Israeli media reported talks to secure a significant release of hostages in the near future.
Unnamed Israeli and foreign sources reported to the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper that discussions were in progress to release a notable amount of hostages, potentially in the coming days.
The World Health Organization urged Hamas to show evidence of the hostages’ well-being and to release them due to health concerns on Wednesday.
“The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that numerous hostages, including minors, females, and the elderly, have pre-existing medical conditions that demand immediate and ongoing attention. The emotional distress experienced by those who were kidnapped and their loved ones is severe, making psychosocial support crucial.”
Although there is increasing global concern about the harm to civilians in Gaza, high-ranking Israeli officials and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization in several countries, including the UK, have mentioned the possibility of an escalation of the conflict. Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy leader of the Hamas political bureau based in Lebanon, stated that “the true battles have yet to commence.”
On the Israeli side, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet and a former IDF chief of staff, told Israeli radio on Thursday: “The war will soon enter new stages and [will be fought] with greater intensity.”
American news outlets stated that Joe Biden had been urging Netanyahu to delay a ground invasion while Hamas still had hostages, but he refuted these claims on Wednesday.
Biden stated that he suggested to him the possibility of safely evacuating these individuals and that it is ultimately their choice. However, he did not make it a requirement.
The attack occurred following a warning from the UN that they were close to depleting their fuel reserves in the Gaza Strip. This caused them to significantly reduce their humanitarian aid efforts in the area, as the territory has been under a strict siege since Hamas’s violent actions in southern Israel sparked the current conflict earlier this month.
The UNRWA, responsible for Palestinian refugees, issued a warning about dwindling fuel reserves, causing concern that the already dire humanitarian situation could deteriorate rapidly.
Israel has permitted the entry of over 60 aid trucks from Egypt in the past few days. However, aid workers believe that this amount is inadequate and only a small portion of what was previously allowed before the conflict. Israel continues to restrict the delivery of fuel, which is essential for powering generators, citing concerns that Hamas will seize it.
A representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed their intention to transport eight trucks containing critical medical resources.
William Schomburg, the leader of the sub-delegation in Gaza, stated that this is only a fraction of what is needed, a minor contribution. He also mentioned their efforts to create a pipeline.
This report includes contributions from Reuters and the Associated Press.