A massive wave of airstrikes was carried out ahead of a ground incursion
Israeli ground forces will “expand” their activity in Gaza on Friday night, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari has told reporters. Warplanes are currently subjecting the enclave to some of the heaviest bombardment to date ahead of the ground operation.
“The air force is striking underground targets very significantly,” Hagari said at a briefing on Friday evening, adding that ground troops will “expand” their raids into Gaza later in the night.
Israeli soldiers have conducted several limited raids into the strip over the last two days but no major offensive has been announced. Hagari’s statement is the clearest sign since the beginning of the conflict on October 7 that an invasion – which the IDF has been preparing to launch for almost three weeks – is imminent.
In a statement on Friday morning, the IDF said that its tanks and infantry had moved into central Gaza the previous day and destroyed “dozens of terrorist targets, including positions for launching anti-tank missiles and operational headquarters,” as well as Hamas fighters. Israeli forces withdrew after the raid with no casualties, the IDF added.
כוחות חי”ר, שיריון והנדסה בפיקוד עוצבת ׳געש׳ (36) ובליווי של כטמ”מים ומסוקי קרב של צה”ל פשטו ביממה האחרונה פשיטה במרכז רצועת עזה. כחלק מהפשיטה, כלי טיס וארטילריה של צה״ל תקפו מטרות של ארגון הטרור חמאס בשכונת סג’עיה וברחבי הרצועה >> pic.twitter.com/oP6aTax85Y
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) October 27, 2023
A video posted to X (formerly Twitter) by the IDF showed helicopter gunships destroying buildings as troops and tanks fired their weapons below.
Hamas claimed that its militants engaged the Israelis with gunfire and anti-tank missiles, forcing them to flee back to Israeli territory.
Hagari and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant have warned for several weeks that the IDF is ready to launch an invasion of Gaza, with Gallant declaring on Sunday that “there will be no Hamas” left after the operation. However, the Israeli government has not given the order to invade, and media reports have suggested that the US is pressuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay the operation so that Qatari-brokered talks aimed at freeing some of the roughly 200 hostages in Hamas captivity can proceed.
American officials are “also concerned… that the Israel Defense Forces do not yet have a clear military pathway to achieve…Netanyahu’s goal of eradicating Hamas,” the New York Times reported on Monday. With the risk to civilians high, the Pentagon has urged the Israeli prime minister to give “careful consideration” to how the operation will be conducted.
Some 7,028 people, including 2,913 children, have been killed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since October 7, according to the most recent figures from the Gaza Health Ministry. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed in the same period, with most slain by Hamas militants in the initial days of the conflict.