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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.