New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from Gaza

The exchange of hostilities between  Israel and  Gaza persists in the context of the war against the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas.

On Friday, intense clashes were reported between  Israel and  Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that controls the  Gaza Strip. During the day,  Israel continued its airstrikes, targeting  Hamas infrastructure and command centers. According to the  Israel Defense Forces  (IDF), one of the attacks led to the elimination of Mahmoud Sabih, a senior Hamas engineer, who was allegedly involved in weapons development and had ties to terrorist groups in the East. Next.

In parallel, Defense Minister  Yoav Gallant visited troops stationed near the border with  Gaza, emphasizing preparation for a possible expansion of the military campaign. Considerable IDF mobilization was observed in the region, anticipating a ground offensive.

In response,  Hamas launched rockets into Israeli territory, hitting Ashkelon, Sderot, and Ashdod areas. Several direct impacts caused material damage; however, no injuries were reported.

New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from GazaNatalie Raanan, 3rd left, and Judith Raanan, right, are seen arriving in Israel after being freed from Hamas captivity, as government hostage envoy Gal Hirsch, center, holds them the hand, October 20, 2023 (Courtesy)

Amid these events,  Hamas released two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, who had been captured during previous attacks. The release, mediated by  Qatar, was attributed to “humanitarian considerations.”

On the same day, UN Secretary-General  Antonio  Guterres visited the Egyptian side of the  Rafah border crossing, focusing on preparations for sending humanitarian aid to  Gaza. He emphasized the urgency of the situation, describing the supplies on standby as crucial to the survival of the affected population.

In an international context, the president of the United States,  Joe Biden, indicated that the reopening of the border crossing to enter aid is expected. This would follow commitments obtained from Israel and the president of Egypt, anticipating that aid delivery could begin within 24 to 48 hours.

These developments follow severe attacks that began on October 7, when  Gaza terrorists invaded  Israel and massacred more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and captured hostages. The incident began intense shelling and a growing humanitarian crisis in the region.

New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from Gaza
An aerial view shows destroyed buildings in the town of al-Zahra, south of Gaza City, on October 20, 2023, following overnight Israeli strikes amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. (Belal Alsabbagh/AFP)

On Friday, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry reported that Israeli bombings have killed more than 4,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians. This claim comes from the terrorist organization and has not been independently verified. There is speculation that the count includes  Hamas members and victims of a hospital explosion in Gaza on Tuesday, an event that  Hamas attributes to Israel. However, evidence presented by  Israel and confirmed by the United States indicates that the explosion was caused by a defective rocket launched by  Islamic Jihad.

Israel maintains that its attacks are directed exclusively at terrorist targets located within civilian areas, emphasizing its attempt to minimize non-combatant casualties. Additionally,  Israel cut off basic supplies to  Gaza, affecting 2.4 million people, and although it has partially restored water, it refuses to offer further assistance until  Hamas releases the held Israeli citizens.

New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from GazaDefense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with IDF troops at the Gaza border on October 20, 2023. (Elad Malka/Ministry of Defense)

In preparation for an escalation in  Gaza,  Israel has asked civilians in northern areas to relocate. Yoav Gallant, in a session of the   Knesset  Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, outlined a three-phase strategy against  Hamas, focusing on dismantling its military capabilities and establishing a new post-Hamas security reality in  Gaza.

The current campaign, described as the first phase, involves airstrikes and ground operations. Phase two will reduce the intensity of combat while tackling the last bastions of resistance. The final stage sees the establishment of a renewed security regime in  Gaza, freeing  Israel from direct responsibilities in the area.

In parallel, the  Israel Defense Forces  (IDF), represented by Rear Admiral  Daniel Hagari, announced that they were ready to counter threats from the  Houthis  in  Yemen, backed by  Iran. On Thursday, a US ship intercepted missiles and drones from  Yemen, presumably aimed at  Israel. Hagari highlighted Israel’s preparedness for such attacks, emphasizing the country’s robust air defense.

New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from GazaThe U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) operates in the Mediterranean Sea, July 1, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Gen. Xavier Jimenez)

In response to tensions on the northern border, the evacuation of  Kiryat Shmona, a town of approximately 22,000 inhabitants, was ordered in anticipation of possible clashes.

On Thursday, a serious incident aggravated the already tense situation in the region when a rocket hit a home, injuring three residents. This event, classified as the most serious attack since 2006, has caused an escalation in military responses.

Faced with the growing threat, the National Emergency Management Authority began the evacuation of communities near the border with Lebanon. At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed having carried out night attacks against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon in retaliation for the rockets launched against Israeli territory.

New barrages of rockets against southern Israel from GazaIsraeli soldiers drive an armored personnel carrier (APC) in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, Oct. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Baz Ratner)

Clashes between the IDF, Hezbollah, and Palestinian factions in southern Lebanon have increased, raising concerns about a new conflict front as Israel continues its offensive against Hamas in Gaza. In a briefing, a military official mentioned that conditions on the northern border would influence future decisions on military operations in Gaza.

Recently, Israeli commanders expressed that a ground campaign in the Gaza Strip is being considered to neutralize Hamas. During visits to the troops, they reported that any operation would be extensive and rigorous. Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman of the IDF Southern Command emphasized the intensity of such an offensive would entail.

The planning for this possible ground incursion was reflected in a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet, which lasted approximately six hours on Thursday. Simultaneously, there is significant pressure on the Israeli government to define a strategy to prevent a prolonged occupation of  Gaza, ensuring that  Hamas stops controlling and posing a threat from the enclave.

The  Biden administration has urged Israel to clarify its exit plan. According to sources, Prime Minister  Netanyahu told the  United States that the strategy is still under development, prioritizing the elimination of  Hamas in Gaza.

For his part, President Biden, during his visit to  Tel Aviv, urged Israel to avoid a quagmire in  Gaza, recalling the lessons learned by the United States in Afghanistan. “Justice must be done,” he said, warning about the consequences of anger-driven actions.