Israel Escalates Conflict with Strikes on Tunnels and Bunkers

Israel’s ground operation continued on Saturday, with infantry and armored vehicle forays into Gaza and massive air and sea strikes. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated that Israel’s sustained ground incursion had likely begun, with fighter jets striking 150 underground targets in the northern Gaza Strip, including Hamas tunnels, combat spaces, and other underground infrastructure. Hagari praised the killing and elimination of Hamas’ air chief, Asem Abu Rakaba, who was responsible for Hamas’ UAVs, drones, paragliders, aerial detection, and defense.

IDF officials also reported downing a surface-to-air missile fired from inside Lebanon at an IDF drone. Hamas and al-Qassam brigades are preparing to confront Israeli attacks with full force, claiming fighters are clashing with Israeli troops in Beit Hanoun and Al-Bureij, ensuring all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to thwart the incursions.

Israeli strikes have disrupted Gaza’s communications infrastructure, causing a near-blackout of information and removing 2.3 million residents from contact with the outside world. The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk, has warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences of large-scale ground operations in Gaza, where thousands have already died in Israeli air strikes. He stated that continued violence is not the answer.

Israel has allowed trucks carrying food, water, and medicine to enter Gaza, indicating a possible pause in bombing along its border with Egypt. The World Health Organization has appealed to humanity to end the fighting in Gaza, stating that more wounded people are dying every hour due to the communications blackout. The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza reported that 377 people have been killed since Israel expanded its ground offensive, raising the death total in Gaza to 7,703 people, including 3,195 children and 1,863 women.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss Israel’s operations in Gaza, emphasizing the importance of protecting civilians and focusing on the urgency of humanitarian aid delivery for civilians in Gaza. He also emphasized the need for Hamas to release all hostages.

The relatives of hostages captured in Israel during the October 7 Hamas assault have demanded an urgent meeting with Israeli officials to discuss the well-being of the 229 hostages in Gaza. The hostages include children, the elderly, and many people with foreign passports. Four women have been released so far. A relative of hostages, Yosi Shnaider, said that Israel’s military operation was the only way to release them. Hamas is accused of cynically manipulating the situation.Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi urged the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza and said the Egyptian government was working to de-escalate the conflict through talks, including discussions about releasing prisoners and hostages.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Israel to emerge from its “state of insanity” and end military actions. The UN General Assembly has called for a humanitarian truce between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas, demanding aid access to the Gaza Strip and civilian protection. Israel has rejected these calls, pledging to prevent Hamas from carrying out attacks following the October 7 massacre.

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