Ground invasion of Gaza ‘imminent,’ Israeli officials say
The operation was expected following Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack and has been seen as likely after Israel ordered an evacuation of northern Gaza.
Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza is “imminent,” two Israeli officials said Friday, confirming that the much-anticipated operation will happen in the coming hours or days.
Such an maneuver has been expected ever since Hamas barbarically attacked Israel last week, killing around 1,300 people and taking 150 hostages, some of them Americans. Israel responded by pummeling the Hamas controlled enclave of Gaza with 6,000 airstrikes in six days and a siege, killing roughly 1,800 Palestinians in retaliation.
But officials in Jerusalem and the Israel Defense Forces never confirmed that a ground invasion was in the works, even as Israel called up 300,000 reservists and, Friday, ordered the evacuation of 1.1 million people from northern Gaza.
The Israeli officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive military plans, said the evacuation order was issued to save as many Palestinian lives as possible ahead of the ground operation. The short window of time for that evacuation was necessary so that Hamas wouldn’t have much time to prepare, they said.
Spokespeople for Israel’s government and military wouldn’t comment on future operations, though none denied that a ground invasion was coming.
The campaign would be one of the most challenging in Israel’s recent history. Gaza, a small strip of land flanked by the Mediterranean Sea, is heavily populated and dense, leading to an urban warfare scenario that will likely see many people killed. When Israel last invaded Gaza in 2014, 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed. More than 70 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers, were also killed in the fighting.
It’s unclear whether most, or even many, of the Gazans ordered to leave their homes will be able to do so ahead of the ground invasion. Humanitarian aid groups say the timeline is too short and the conditions too challenging for such a large movement of people. Hamas is complicating the situation, urging residents to stay in their homes. And with Israel having cut off much of the electricity to the area, it’s difficult for electronic messages with instructions on how to evacuate to reach the intended audience.
The Biden administration is repeating that it wants Israel to abide by the laws of war in its response to Hamas. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking Friday in Israel, stated that “this is a time for resolve and not revenge, for purpose and not panic and for security and not surrender.”