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Israel Readies Massive Ground Assault on Gaza

Written by on October 15, 2023

The latest:

  • Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said Hamas is blocking civilian Gazans from evacuating northern areas.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the urgent need of humanitarian aid in Gaza, the White House says.
  • U.S. sends second aircraft carrier “to deter hostile actions against Israel,” the Pentagon said.
  • The deadline passes since Israel Defense Forces warned residents of Gaza city and northern areas to evacuate along specified routes.

The Israel Defense Forces international spokesperson Sunday warned journalists and everyone else to be mindful of the “veracity” of the news information from Gaza.

During the briefing, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus showed a video of an explosion reported to have struck vehicles traveling to southern Gaza. Conricus said Israel did not strike in that area, as IDF officials have repeatedly urged civilians to continue evacuating the enclave’s northern regions.

“We want people to go south,” said Conricus, who also showed footage of what he described as Hamas roadblocks designed to block civilian Gazan convoys from traveling south. VOA could not independently verify the images presented during the Conricus press briefs.

The IDF spokesperson also said Hamas has urged people to stay home and not evacuate as Israel has warned them to do for their own safety before Tel Avis starts its next stage of “enhanced operations” against Hamas in northern Gaza.

Israel is preparing a massive ground assault in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip after the Israeli military’s deadline for northern Gaza residents to evacuate to the south expired.

Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza in retaliation for a rampage by its fighters, who stormed through Israeli towns on Oct. 7, killing 1,300 civilians and taking dozens of hostages in the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history.

The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, have saturated the border with thousands of reservists, troops and military equipment amid a relentless onslaught on the territory.

So far, Israeli strikes have killed about 1,900 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is mounting in Gaza as Palestinians scrambled Saturday to evacuate from the northern part of the tiny Gaza Strip and head south before an expected Israeli military offensive.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warned Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza as soon as possible because they might lead to a widening of the war to other parts of the Middle East, if Hezbollah joins the battle. That would make Israel suffer “a huge earthquake.”

U.S. President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated the “unwavering” U.S. support for Israel and warned against anyone “seeking to expand the conflict,” a White House statement read. Biden also updated Netanyahu on U.S. military support to Israel.

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Oct. 14, 2023.
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Oct. 14, 2023.

Later Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the U.S. was sending a second carrier strike group, the USS Eisenhower, to the eastern Mediterranean. It would join the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group, which arrived earlier this week.

“The increases to U.S. force posture signal the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and our resolve to deter any state or non-state actor seeking to escalate this war,” Austin said in a statement.

Also Saturday, Russia asked the U.N. Security Council to vote Monday on a draft resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict that calls for a humanitarian cease-fire and condemns violence against civilians and all acts of terrorism.

Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said he expected the vote to be scheduled for 3 p.m. EDT on Monday.

Hostages appeal

The U.S. State Department confirmed Saturday the deaths of 29 U.S. citizens during the Hamas attacks into Israel.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the victims and to the families of all those affected. We are not commenting further on the circumstances of the U.S. citizen deaths or the identities of the deceased at this time,” a department official said.

Israel’s military said early Saturday it confirmed that more than 120 civilians are being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.

The United States is one of more than 30 countries where family members, friends, entire communities are being forced to go through this wrenching experience because of Hamas’s disdain for human life and basic human dignity.

Rafah border

Washington has been working with Egypt, Israel and Qatar to open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Saturday afternoon to allow Palestinian-Americans to leave, a senior State Department official said earlier.

The number of dual Palestinian-American citizens has been estimated at about 500 among the Gaza Strip’s population of 2 million. Washington hopes to get many of its nationals out of harm’s way.

It was unclear, though, whether Hamas would allow access to the crossing, a Hamas official said.

“There will be no migration from Gaza to Egypt,” he said, adding that “our decision is to stay in our land.”

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, an ardent enemy of Hamas, has also warned that a mass displacement from the enclave could mean an end to the aspirations of a Palestinian state.

Egypt remains apprehensive about the prospect of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees being displaced into Egypt or of Egypt getting drawn deeper into the conflict.

Egypt also told the U.S. that it has too many evacuation requests to accommodate U.S. nationals and that it can’t grant passage to one country over others, according to two Egyptian officials, who also cited security concerns related to a lack of screening of individuals.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East in an effort to prevent the expansion of the Israel-Hamas war, is scheduled to stop in Egypt on Sunday.

U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information for this article came The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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