Israel Hamas war live updates: Israel poised for ground invasion of Gaza

ByRahul

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Israel appears to be on the brink of launching a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, nearly two weeks after Hamas terrorists killed more than 1400 people and captured around 200 hostages.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops at the border on Thursday to “get organised, be ready” to move in, warning of a “lengthy” and “difficult” battle ahead.

Tens of thousands of Israeli troops have massed at the border with the tiny parcel of land, which is home to 2.4 million Palestinians.

Read on for the latest news.

7.20am — Israel has ‘green light’ for invasion

The Israeli military appears to be on the brink of launching a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip nearly two weeks after Hamas terrorists invaded southern Israel.

The country’s Economy Minister Nir Barkat told ABC News on Thursday that the Israeli Defense Forces has a “green light” to begin an offensive — just in time for the arrival of hefty military arms from the US.

“We shall do all efforts to bring our hostages, to bring our hostages [back] alive,” he insisted while acknowledging that the “first and last priority” is destroying Hamas.

Hamas has claimed that it is holding about 203 Israeli hostages within the network of tunnels it built underneath Gaza — which Mr Barkat vowed will become the “world’s biggest cemetery”.

The IDF is intent on decimating the terrorist group “even if it takes a year” — with hostages and civilian casualties taking a back seat, Mr Barkat explained.

Mr Barkat’s announcement came shortly after a US defence official told The Wall Street Journal that the US shipped nearly one million rounds of 7.62mm ammunition and tens of thousands of 30mm rounds to Israel in anticipation of the ground offensive.

The generous delivery is part of a previously agreed-upon annual military sale from the US to Israel, the outlet explained. Thus far this year, Israel has also received tens of thousands of 155mm rounds from the US, the report stated.

Also on Thursday, the IDF confirmed that it was in the process of approving final plans for a ground invasion of Gaza — which is a 365 square kilometre parcel of land between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.

— NY Post

6.55am — US intercepts missiles from Yemen

A US Navy ship on Thursday shot down missiles and drones that had been fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen, possibly at Israel, the Pentagon said.

Three “land-attack cruise missiles and several drones” were intercepted by a destroyer, a spokesman told reporters. The attack had been conducted from Yemen and “potentially toward targets in Israel”.

6.46am — Saudi slams ‘heinous’ Gaza attacks

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Thursday that attacks on civilians in Gaza were “heinous” and warned of “dangerous repercussions” should the war between Israel and Hamas expand, state media reported.

Mohammed bin Salman, the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, made his comments during a meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who before visiting Riyadh met with Israeli leaders and pressed them to let more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Prince Mohammed “affirmed that the kingdom considers targeting civilians in Gaza a heinous crime and a brutal attack, stressing the necessity of working to provide protection for them”, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also “stressed the need to make all possible efforts to reduce the pace of escalation and ensure that the violence does not expand in order to avoid its dangerous repercussions on security and peace in the region and the world”.

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death, according to Israeli officials.

Israel says around 1500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its troops regained control.

More than 3700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in retaliatory Israeli bombardments, according to figures from its Hamas-run health ministry.

Mr Sunak and Prince Mohammed “agreed that the loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza over the last two weeks has been horrific”, according to a readout from Mr Sunak’s office.

They also “agreed on the pressing need for humanitarian access into Gaza to provide vital water, food and medicine”, it said.

Mr Sunak “encouraged the crown prince to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability, both now and in the long term”, it added.

Prince Mohammed also spoke by telephone on Thursday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, SPA reported.

In that conversation he advocated for “strengthening international and regional efforts to stop military operations” and urged the UN to provide “safe humanitarian corridors” to get food and medical care into Gaza.

Since the war broke out, Saudi Arabia has issued a series of statements denouncing the displacement of Palestinians from their homes and attacks on “defenceless civilians” while affirming its support for the Palestinian cause.

The violence has dealt a blow to efforts by US President Joe Biden’s administration to broker a deal that would see Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, recognise Israel.

Last week, a source familiar with that process told AFP that Riyadh had decided to “pause discussion on possible normalisation”.

6.36am — Besieged Palestinians await aid trucks

Palestinians in war-torn Gaza on Thursday awaited the arrival of emergency aid promised in a deal struck by US President Joe Biden, as Israel’s military kept up its bombardment of targets in the Hamas-run enclave.

Cargo planes delivered stocks including food and medicine, water purifiers and hygiene products to Egypt’s El Arish airport, awaiting the opening of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza.

Egyptian state-linked broadcaster Al Qahera News said the crossing — the only one into and out of the besieged enclave not controlled by Israel — would open on Friday.

On a visit to Cairo, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there needed to be “rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access” after dire warnings about the impact of the sustained Israeli blockade.

“We need food, water, medicine and fuel now. We need it at scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is required,” he added.

In Geneva, the emergencies director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Michael Ryan, said aid needed to get in “every day”, calling the deal struck by Mr Biden with Israel and Egypt to allow in 20 trucks “a drop in the ocean of need right now”.

“It shouldn’t be 20 trucks — it should be 2000 trucks,” he said.

Entire city blocks have been levelled in Gaza, displacing more than one million of the 2.4 million population, the UN has said.

“The pace of death, of suffering, of destruction … cannot be exaggerated,” said UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

There are fears of worse to come if Israel launches an expected ground invasion to destroy Hamas and rescue more than 200 Israeli and foreign hostages.

Mr Biden, on a flying visit to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet on Wednesday, reiterated strong US support for its long-time ally but also stressed the need to address the plight of Palestinian civilians.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday condemned what they said was the “collective punishment” of Gazans.

They also warned about the conflict spreading, with anger across the Middle East at Israel and its Western allies.

“If the war does not stop [it threatens] to plunge the entire region into catastrophe,” a statement from the Jordanian royal court read.

Sisi and Abdullah, whose countries were the first Arab states to make peace with Israel in 1979 and 1994, are seen as key mediators between Israel and the Palestinians.

They had been due to have four-way talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Biden. But Amman cancelled the summit.

Cairo has so far kept the Rafah crossing closed, pointing to repeated Israeli strikes near the checkpoint and voicing fears that Israel may be hoping to permanently drive Palestinians out and into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

The UN World Food Programme said it has 951 tonnes of food at or on the way to Rafah — enough to feed 488,000 people for one week, a spokesperson said.

6.30am — ‘Maximum 50 killed’ in hospital strike

The Arab world has been united in anger and condemnation of Israel since a blast at a Gaza hospital compound on Tuesday.

Israel temporarily recalled its diplomats from Turkey as a security precaution and called on citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.

Both sides in the war have traded blame, but neither the provenance of the strike nor the death toll could immediately be independently verified.

The strike left scores of bodies and charred cars at the Ahli Arab hospital compound in northern Gaza, AFP images showed.

Hamas accused Israel of hitting the hospital during its massive bombing campaign and Gaza’s health ministry put the death toll at 471.

Israel blamed a misfired Islamic Jihad rocket — a claim backed by US President Joe Biden — pointing to the lack of a large impact crater typical of its air strikes, and said fuel from the errant rocket exploded.

A senior European intelligence source told AFP that he believed a maximum of 50 people were killed.

Hamas has dismissed Israel’s position, saying its “outrageous lies do not deceive anyone”, and slammed the United States, accusing it of being complicit in the ongoing strikes on Gaza.

6.24am — Foreigners killed, abducted or missing

Scores of foreigners were killed, wounded or taken hostage after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

The worst attack in Israel’s 75-year history killed more than 1400 people, mostly civilians, inside the country, according to Israeli officials.

Israel has responded with bombardment that has killed at least 3785 people in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the territory.

According to an AFP count, around 200 foreigners have been confirmed dead by their national authorities, many of them also holding Israeli nationality.

Some 203 people have been confirmed as having been abducted, Israel said Thursday. They include 31 dead and 13 missing US citizens, 30 dead and 17 Thai hostages, and 28 and seven missing French nationals.

Also killed or abducted were citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Nepal, Argentina, UK, Canada, Austria, China, Romania, Belarus, Brazil, Philippines, Peru, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

One Australian was killed in the attacks.

4.18am — US issues global travel ‘caution’

The State Department on Thursday issued a rare “worldwide caution” advisory for US citizens everywhere, citing terrorism and potential for anti-American demonstrations.

The alert said US citizens should be aware of “increased tensions in various locations around the world”.

This includes “potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests”.

The war between Hamas in Gaza and US ally Israel has sent tensions surging in the Middle East.

The State Department urged Americans to “stay alert in locations frequented by tourists” and to enrol in a program known as STEP, which allows citizens to be located more quickly in case of emergency.

— with AFP

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