In a significant development, Israeli forces have initiated a military operation in the northern Gaza Strip, conducting intense air and artillery strikes against suspected Hamas strongholds. This operation follows a series of escalating tensions in the region and a recent border incident where Hamas operatives crossed into Israeli territory, resulting in casualties and hostages. Here are the key details:
1. Escalation and Buildup: The situation had been escalating since October 7, when Hamas operatives crossed the border, resulting in casualties and the taking of hostages. This incident prompted Israel to prepare for a potential ground invasion.
2. Focus on Northern Gaza: Israeli military intelligence indicated that the core of Hamas’ leadership and infrastructure was concentrated in the northern region. As a result, Israel has launched relentless strikes in this area. Earlier, the Israeli government had urged civilians to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip and relocate to the south for their safety.
3. Intense Raids: Gaza experienced a night of heavy bombardment, with the Israeli military reporting the elimination of a top Hamas commander and several operatives. The strikes targeted around 150 “underground targets” associated with Hamas.
4. Troops on the Ground: Israeli Defence spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, confirmed that Israeli troops remain active in the field, engaged in combat against what they perceive as a weaker enemy.
5. Humanitarian Aid: In the midst of these operations, Israel has allowed aid trucks, carrying food and water, to enter Gaza. The region faces severe shortages of essential supplies, including food, fuel, and medicines.
6. Communication Blackout: The ongoing conflict has led to a communication blackout in the region, as internet and phone services were disrupted during the overnight strikes. Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns about this blackout potentially facilitating cover for mass atrocities.
7. Thick Haze of Smoke: Journalists covering the conflict have reported a thick haze of smoke enveloping both Gaza and southern Israel following the night of heavy bombardment.
8. Chaos and Disruption: BBC correspondent Rushdi Abualouf described the situation as “total chaos” during and after the night of strikes, noting the scale of the bombardment in the northern Gaza Strip.
9. Hamas’ Response: The Palestinian militant group, Hamas, which governs Gaza, has declared its readiness to confront Israeli attacks with “full force” in the region. They reported clashes between their operatives and Israeli troops near the border.
10. Hospital Controversy: Israel has accused Hamas of using Gaza’s largest hospital as its headquarters and of utilizing other hospitals for military purposes. Hamas has denied these allegations.
The situation remains fluid, and developments are ongoing. It is a critical time in the region, and the international community is closely monitoring the situation.