Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Saturday that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would be stepping up its airstrikes in Gaza so as to soften up the territory for a ground invasion.
“We will deepen our attacks to minimize the dangers to our forces in the next stages of the war. We are going to increase the attacks, from today,” Hagari said. He called on Gaza’s residents to move south “for your own safety.”
Overnight raids on the Gaza Strip killed at least 55 people, the Hamas government said on Sunday. More than 4,600 people have been killed in Gaza in the past two weeks, including more than 1,800 children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Israel has confirmed that 212 people are being held hostage in Gaza. Military spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said on Sunday that Israeli strikes overnight had killed dozens of Palestinian fighters, including the deputy chief of Hamas rocket forces.
According to Reuters, many Palestinians said they had received renewed warnings from Israel’s military via leaflets and phone messages to move from north Gaza to the south of the enclave, with the added message that they “might be identified as an accomplice in a terrorist organization” if they stayed put.
However, there have also been strikes in the south of Gaza, making it unclear whether moving is truly safe.
The Israeli attacks come after Hamas militants carried out a cross-border attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people, mainly civilians. For many days, Israeli forces have seemed to be prepared for a possible ground invasion of Gaza.
In addition, Israel said that overnight it hit a “terrorist compound” in Jenin in the West Bank, allegedly including “operatives” from a Hamas cell within a mosque, who were allegedly planning attacks.
The strike was part of surging violence in the West Bank, as the Israeli military pursues Palestinian militants. At least 90 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli-occupied territory in the past two weeks, mainly in clashes with Israeli troops, according to AP.
The tally includes five Palestinians killed in separate incidents on Sunday. Israel carried out an airstrike during a battle in another West Bank refugee camp last week, in which 13 Palestinians, including five minors, and a member of Israel’s paramilitary Border Police were killed.
Unlike in Gaza, Israel rarely uses air power in the occupied West Bank. Israel says its forces have detained over 700 suspects in the West Bank, including 480 members of Hamas, since the start of hostilities.
Meanwhile, Israel also carried out strikes on Hezbollah targets on the border with Lebanon on Saturday, after one Israeli soldier was hit by an anti-tank missile in northern Israel. “We are in the heart of the battle today,” said Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Kassem, on Saturday, the same day that the group said six of its fighters were killed.
To the northeast, Syrian state media reported that Israeli airstrikes early Sunday targeted the international airports of the Syrian capital Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo, killing one person. The runways were damaged and put out of service. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Late on Saturday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a statement signaling further U.S. presence in the region.
He said the Pentagon is sending an anti-ballistic missile defense system called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to the Middle East, as well as additional Patriot air defense missile system battalions.
The U.S. has deployed a significant amount of naval power to the area in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2,000 Marines.
Humanitarian efforts are still focusing on aid convoys to the Gaza Strip after some aid finally got through to the enclave. Twenty trucks carrying medicine, medical supplies and food crossed into Gaza on Saturday morning from Egypt, marking the first humanitarian aid to arrive in the enclave since an Israeli bombardment campaign began two weeks ago.
However, considering the needs, twenty trucks are no more than a drop in the ocean.
Loaded on the trucks were medical supplies for trauma treatment and chronic disease, the World Health Organization said Saturday.
The delivery also included some food, mattresses and blankets. Notably, no fuel arrived, which aid groups say is needed to power hospitals and desalination plants for much-needed water.
The UN says 17 trucks, presumably carrying food, water and medical supplies – like the 20 trucks that went in yesterday – have arrived at the crossing and are currently being checked, but have yet to enter Gaza.
The BBC reports that live pictures a short time ago appeared to show fuel trucks among those moving inside the crossing.
Source: NPR, BBC.