The Israeli military has said that forces on the ground have joined the air assault on the Gaza Strip, as residents reported a massive bombardment, amid fears of an incursion into the blockaded territory.
“[Israel Defense Forces] Air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip, ”the army said. said in a statement shortly after midnight local time, without providing further details.
Later, the army issued a statement saying that there were no troops inside the Gaza Strip, suggesting that it was not a land invasion but artillery and tank fire from the border.
Clarification: There are currently no IDF ground troops inside the Gaza Strip. IDF air and ground forces are carrying out strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, ”the statement said.
The attacks marked a significant escalation in the worst fight in years. Shortly after the initial military announcement, in an apparent reference to the operation, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, tweeted: “The last word was not said and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
In the early hours of Friday, masses of red flames lit up the skies as deafening explosions outside Gaza City, which is more than a kilometer from the border, woke people up by shaking their apartment blocks. The blows were so strong that people could be heard screaming in fear.
Shortly after it began attacking, the Israeli military said residents up to 4 kilometers around the border should head to bomb shelters, with militants firing rocket salvoes shortly after the attack.
On Thursday, Israeli military plans for a possible ground operation in Hamas-controlled territory were expected to be presented to political leaders. The forces had been told to “prepare for battle” and the army called in 7,000 reservists and canceled the license for all combat units.
While the escalating military conflict with Gaza is the worst since the 2014 war, Israel’s political leaders said Thursday that violent street clashes between Jews and Arabs within the country pose a greater threat.
Netanyahu visited the city of Lod, where there have been riots, burning cars, destruction of property and violent attacks on people.
“We have no greater threat now than these pogroms, and we have no choice but to restore law and order through the determined use of force,” he said. In a previous statement, he said the country was fighting a battle “on two fronts.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that a “civil war [would] be a danger to our existence, more than all the dangers that we have from the outside ”.
Intercommunal violence, including beatings, stabbings, shootings and arson, has been reported across the country, from Beersheba in the southern Negev to Tiberias and Haifa in the north. A television journalist was attacked in Tel Aviv.
More than 400 people have been arrested and border police have been relocated from the occupied West Bank to cities within Israel. “We are in an emergency, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said there had been a “total loss of control.” He accused Netanyahu of “leading us to anarchy.” “Jewish and Arab rioters have declared war on Israel and there is no response, there is no government, there is no police, there is no leadership,” he said.
Lod was closed from Thursday afternoon and a curfew was imposed overnight. Netanyahu said that people involved in clashes could be detained indefinitely without charge, a practice known as administrative detention.
In Gaza, militants had continued to fire rockets while the Israeli air force fired missiles throughout the day. In the enclave, the shops, restaurants and parks that would normally be crowded for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr were deserted.
The Israeli army said it had reached a main command center where dozens of Hamas operatives were conducting surveillance, and four apartments from which senior commanders were leading rocket attacks.
Hamas said it had launched a series of “suicide drones” in southern Israel. Drones fixate on targets before dropping explosives. Warning sirens sounded almost continuously throughout the day in southern Israeli cities as Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets.
A total of 103 people, including at least 27 children, have died in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry. On Thursday alone, 49 Palestinians died in the enclave. In Israel, seven people, including two children, died.
Since Monday, more than 1,700 rockets have been fired from Gaza, according to the Israeli military. He said that a third had fallen inside Gaza and that the Israeli defense system Iron Dome has intercepted most of the rest.
Earlier in the day, US President Joe Biden said “there had been no significant overreaction” by Israel to the Hamas rocket attacks. “The question is how, how do we get to a point, they get to a point, where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are fired indiscriminately at population centers,” he told reporters at the White House. .
Abu-Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that an Ayyash rocket with a range of 250 km had been launched towards Ramon airport. The local council said a rocket had landed in the area.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary General António Guterres jointly called for an end to the fighting.
“The main task is to stop the violent actions on both sides and to ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement after a video call with Guterres.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism