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Israeli forces fight through the night as ground operations in Gaza intensify


Israeli forces fought through the night in a significantly expanded ground offensive in Gaza, under the cover of an intense aerial bombardment that has knocked out most communications in the enclave.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesperson for Israel’s military, said the Israel Defense Forces had been carrying out limited incursions into Gaza over the previous two nights and were now “expanding” operations on the ground.

The escalation came 48 hours after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, told a national audience that his government was preparing a “ground invasion” of Gaza. But it remained unclear on Saturday whether the intensification of military operations was the prelude to a wider war.

The IDF said it had hit 150 Hamas targets overnight, describing them as tunnels, combat spaces and underground infrastructure. It added that it had killed Asem Abu Rakaba, believed to be the head of Hamas’s Aerial Array that launched the paragliders in the October 7 attack on Israel.

In video released by the IDF, dozens of Israeli tanks can be seen operating inside Gaza, shooting at unspecified targets.

Hamas’s military wing said on Telegram it was engaged in “violent clashes” with Israeli forces in the north of Gaza around Beit Hanoun and in the centre of the strip east of Bureij, a refugee camp.

Protests broke out across the occupied West Bank on Friday night, with demonstrations reported in Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus and social media images showing thousands on the streets. Armed Israeli settlers attacked the village of Masafar Yada, two local residents said, and five Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunshots in Qalqilya, the Wafa news agency said.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people responded to a call by Gaza-based religious leaders to perform morning prayers on the streets, which turned into protests.

Hours after the escalation, the UN General Assembly adopted a Jordanian resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” and demanding all parties comply with international humanitarian law.

The resolution passed by 120 to 14, with 45 countries abstaining, including the UK. The US was among the members that voted against the resolution.

A view of destroyed buildings in Gaza seen from Sderot as Israeli attacks intensified overnight
A view of destroyed buildings in Gaza seen from Sderot as Israeli attacks intensified overnight © Mostafa Alkharouf/Getty Images

John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, said the US was not setting any “red lines” for Israel, even as Washington would express its concerns over the Israeli military’s “approach” to the conflict.

In recent days, the US and Israel have warned Iran and its proxies not to escalate the conflict, after the Hizbollah militant group in southern Lebanon exchanged cross-border fire with Israeli forces and Houthi militants in Yemen launched missiles that the US said were probably aimed at Israel.

Washington on Thursday said it struck two facilities in eastern Syria it identified as being linked to Iran-backed militias, following more than a dozen attacks on US forces in the region in recent weeks.

Israel called up 360,000 soldiers and deployed many of them close to Gaza after Hamas’s attack on October 7, which sent shockwaves through Israel, and inflicted the highest single death toll since the state was founded in 1948.

More than 1,400 people were killed and more than 5,400 were injured, according to Israeli officials, while Hamas militants also seized more than 200 hostages. Israeli counterstrikes on Gaza have killed more than 7,300 people and injured about 19,000, according to Palestinian officials.

Netanyahu has been under pressure over his war plans, with government hardliners demanding a more aggressive response to Hamas’s assault while other voices, including in western capitals, urged Israel to delay any ground invasion to allow time for the hostages to be extricated from Gaza.

Paltel, the Palestinian telecoms company, said the Israeli bombardment had destroyed “all remaining connections between Gaza and the outside world”.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had lost contact with its operations room in Gaza, and was “deeply concerned about the ability of our teams to continue providing their emergency medical services”.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said on X, formerly Twitter, that it had also lost touch with its staff in Gaza and other health workers, making him “gravely concerned” for their safety and that of vulnerable patients.

Palestinian Minister of Telecommunications and Information
Technology Ishaq Sidr told Palestine TV Israeli warplanes had attacked telecoms infrastructure that included two points of contact with the outside world. He said this was having a severe impact on ambulance services in Gaza and had stopped Gazans from transmitting and documenting Israeli attacks in real time.

Israel has also limited supplies of electricity, water, fuel and food to Gaza, exacerbating dire humanitarian conditions in the strip, which it and Egypt have subjected to a crippling blockade since Hamas seized power in 2007.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the UN’s aid agency for Palestinians, on Friday said the last public services and civil order in the territory, which is home to 2.3mn people, were “collapsing”, while the streets were overflowing with sewage.

“Our aid operation is crumbling and for the first time ever, [UN staff] report that now people are hungry,” Lazzarini said.

More than 1.4mn people have been displaced and 641,000 are sheltering in UN-designated emergency facilities, according to UNRWA.

Additional reporting by Myles McCormick in Houston



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