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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Rising Tensions: Israel’s Ground Operations Extend Amidst Hamas Conflict

Palestinians said they were engaged in “heavy fighting” with Israeli troops on Sunday inside northern Gaza, where besieged residents were again told to flee. Israel’s military released a series of images late Sunday purporting to show tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and equipment-laden foot soldiers operating inside the densely populated territory. The new phase of the operation began Friday evening after weeks of ferocious air strikes, as a top ally, the US, warned of a potentially lengthy conflict.

Netanyahu again prepared his country for a long fight, saying that the military had reached its “highest operational stage.” But he stopped short of calling it an invasion and vowed to “root out all those who launched rocket attacks against our citizens in Israel.”

The Hamas-run Health Ministry said Israeli air strikes have killed more than 7,700 people since October 7. The enclave’s hospitals are running at total capacity, with patients being kept in intensive care units as Israeli bombardments continue to hit mainly urban areas. The heaviest bombardments were reported in al-Saftawi and Jabalia, both of which have been targeted twice in the past few days, with many people dead or wounded.

Israeli forces were also reported to be advancing in the southern Gaza Strip and entering the town of Khan Younis. Palestinians say they have been warned to abandon their homes and seek shelter in schools, mosques, and UNRWA centers. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said its staff in Gaza were reporting “serious damage to buildings and an increasing number of civilian casualties.”

Thousands of families of Israel hostages held by Hamas are racked with anxiety at the prospect of a long war in which their loved ones could be caught up. A group lobbying for the families of those hostages says it expects to see more evidence of a significant ground incursion by Israel in the coming days.

The group has called on the Palestinian Authority to allow its teams to enter Gaza to monitor the situation. But the PA has not yet decided on whether to do so, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to proclaim Israel a war criminal for its actions in Gaza. Addressing a vast pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul, Erdogan told supporters that Western countries should have done more to stop the “evil” Israeli campaign.

Israel’s military said it had identified several tunnels that were being used to send rockets into southern Israel. This claim was backed up by the country’s defense minister and prime minister. The group that represents the families of the hostages said it was a “terrible night” and that it was worried that Israel’s expanding ground operations would put their loved ones in danger. They want the 229 captives freed as a first step to peace. A video posted by the group was widely circulated on social media.

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