Israel threatens floor invasion of Gaza Strip regardless of ceasefire efforts – WISH-TV | Indianapolis Information | Indiana climate
JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel said Thursday it had rallied troops along the Gaza border and called 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled area as the two bitter enemies neared all-out war. Egyptian mediators rushed to Israel for ceasefire efforts but showed no signs of progress.
The intensified fighting came when communal violence broke out in Israel for a fourth night and Jewish and Arab mobs clashed in the flashpoint city of Lod. The fighting took place despite an increased police presence ordered by the nation’s leaders.
The four-day outbreak of violence has led Israel into uncharted territory – it has grappled with the most intense fighting ever with Hamas while dealing with the worst Jewish-Arab violence in Israel in decades. Night rocket fire from Lebanon that landed in the sea threatened to open a new front along Israel’s northern border.
Saleh Aruri, a senior Hamas leader in exile, told London-based Al Araby satellite channel early Friday that his group had rejected a proposal for a three-hour break to allow further negotiations on a full ceasefire. He said Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations had spearheaded the ceasefire effort.
Also on Friday, the Israeli military announced that air and ground troops had hit Gaza in what appeared to be the heaviest attacks. Masses of red flames lit the sky as the deafening explosions roused people on the outskirts of Gaza City. The strikes were so severe that screams of fear could be heard from people in the city several kilometers away.
“I said we were taking a very high price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing this, and we will continue to do it with great force.”
The fighting broke out late Monday when Hamas, which claimed to be the defender of Jerusalem, fired a barrage of long-range missiles at the city in response to the alleged Israeli provocations. Israel responded quickly with a series of air strikes.
Since then, Israel has attacked hundreds of targets in Gaza. The strikes sparked numerous earth-shaking explosions in the densely populated area. Militants from the Gaza Strip fired almost 2,000 rockets at Israel, bringing life to a standstill in the south of the country. Several dams were directed against the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, about 70 kilometers away.
The Gaza Ministry of Health said the death toll had risen to 109 Palestinians, including 28 children and 15 women, with 621 injured. Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, although Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people were killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy.
In Washington, President Joe Biden said he had spoken to Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also supported the Israeli leader by saying, “There has been no significant overreaction.”
He said the goal now is “to reach a point where attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired at population centers, will be significantly reduced”. He called the effort “a work in progress”.
The visit by Egyptian officials on Thursday was an important step in the ceasefire effort.
Egypt often serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas and has been instrumental in ending past rounds of fighting. The officials first met with Hamas leaders in Gaza before holding talks with Israelis in Tel Aviv, two Egyptian intelligence officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The exile leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, has also made contact with the Egyptians, the group said.
Despite these efforts, the fighting only intensified. Israeli planes hit targets in Gaza all day. And late Thursday, Israel fired tank and artillery shells across the border for the first time, causing dozens of terrified residents to flee on security grounds.
The air strikes destroyed numerous buildings, including three high-rise buildings. Israel says the buildings housed militants or Hamas facilities, but civilians were also inside.
In the northern Gaza Strip, Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife and four children were killed after an Israeli fighter plane destroyed the building.
Sadallah Tanani, a relative, said the family had been “removed from the population register” without warning. “It was a massacre. My feelings are indescribable, ”he said.
Israel has been heavily criticized internationally for civilian casualties in fighting in the Gaza Strip. It is said that Hamas is responsible for endangering civilians by hiding and firing rockets from civilian areas.
Late on Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered the mobilization of an additional 9,000 reservists.
Main military spokesman Brig. General Hidai Zilberman said troops were gathering along the Gaza border for a possible ground operation. He said tanks, armored vehicles and artillery were “prepared for mobilization at any time”.
Hamas showed no signs of withdrawal. It launched several intense missile locks throughout the day and launched its most powerful missile, the Ayyash, nearly 200 kilometers into southern Israel. The missile landed in the open desert, but briefly disrupted air traffic at the southern Ramon airport. Hamas also launched a drone that Israel said was shot down quickly.
Hamas military spokesman Abu Obeida said the group is not afraid of a ground invasion. Every invasion is an opportunity to increase the catch of dead or captured soldiers.
The fighting has dwarfed the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which is usually marked by family gatherings and festive meals. Instead, the streets of Gaza were mostly empty.
Hassan Abu Shaaban tried to lighten the mood by distributing sweets to passers-by, but admitted that “there is no atmosphere to celebrate”. “It’s all air strikes, destruction and devastation,” he said. “May God help everyone.”
The current outbreak of violence began a month ago in Jerusalem, where persistent Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threat of displacing dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers sparked protests and police clashes. A focal point of the clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which was built on a hill and is revered by Jews and Muslims.
Israel regards Jerusalem in its entirety as its capital, while the Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state.
The violent clashes between Arabs and Jews in Israel resulted in scenes not seen in more than two decades.
The confrontations broke out again late Thursday. Despite the state of emergency and the heavy police presence, Jewish and Arab mobs fought in downtown Lod, the epicenter of the problems, for the fourth time in a row. A Jewish man was shot and seriously wounded, and Israeli media said a second Jewish man was shot.
In the Tel Aviv district of Jaffa, an Israeli soldier was attacked by a group of Arabs and hospitalized in severe condition.
The fighting exacerbated a political crisis that Israel led through four inconclusive elections in just two years. After the March elections, Netanyahu was unable to form a government coalition. Now his political rivals have three weeks to try.
These efforts were made very complicated by the fighting. His opponents include a wide range of parties that have little in common. They would need the support of an Arab party whose leader has said he cannot negotiate while Israel is fighting in Gaza.
Naftali Bennett, leader of a small right-wing party, was quoted as saying that he did not believe an alternative coalition could be formed in the current atmosphere.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who leads coalition-building efforts, said the country was facing an “existential threat” and urged Bennett to join him in helping save the country.
“We are on the edge of the abyss,” he said.
Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Associated press writers Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem, Samy Magdy in Cairo, Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Ashraf Sweilam in al-Arish, Egypt also contributed to this report.