Israeli ground forces are set to intensify their operations in Gaza, according to Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The announcement comes as Israeli warplanes continue to launch heavy bombardments on Gaza in preparation for the ground offensive.
During a briefing on Friday evening, Hagari stated that the air force has been significantly targeting underground locations. He further added that ground troops will expand their raids into Gaza later that night. While Israeli soldiers have conducted limited raids in the strip over the past two days, no major offensive has been officially declared. However, Hagari’s statement indicates that an invasion, which has been anticipated for nearly three weeks, is now imminent.
The IDF released a statement on Friday morning, revealing that tanks and infantry had moved into central Gaza the previous day. Numerous terrorist targets, including anti-tank missile launch sites and operational headquarters, were destroyed. The IDF also reported engaging with Hamas fighters, but no casualties were reported, and Israeli forces subsequently withdrew.
A video posted by the IDF on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) showcased the destruction caused by helicopter gunships and the firing of weapons by troops and tanks in Gaza.
In response to the Israeli raids, Hamas claimed that its militants engaged the Israeli forces with gunfire and anti-tank missiles, ultimately forcing them to retreat back to Israeli territory.
Hagari and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have been issuing warnings for several weeks that the IDF is fully prepared to launch an invasion of Gaza. Gallant even declared that “there will be no Hamas” left after the operation. Nevertheless, the Israeli government has not yet given the order to invade. Media reports have suggested that pressure from the United States is urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone the operation. This delay would allow for Qatari-brokered talks aimed at securing the release of approximately 200 hostages held by Hamas to proceed.
According to the New York Times, American officials are concerned that the IDF does not have a clear military strategy to achieve Netanyahu’s goal of eradicating Hamas. The Pentagon has advised careful consideration of the operation’s conduct due to the high risk to civilians.
The Gaza Health Ministry reports that since October 7, Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the deaths of 7,028 individuals, including 2,913 children. In the same period, more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, the majority by Hamas militants during the initial days of the conflict.
As tensions continue to escalate in Gaza, the international community closely watches the situation, with hopes for a peaceful resolution to this ongoing conflict.