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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

Israel Presses Ground Campaign Against Hamas In 'Second Stage' Of Gaza War

Tel Aviv, Israel:

Israeli forces waged ground operations against Hamas in Gaza on Sunday in what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the second phase of a three-week-old war aimed at crushing the Palestinian group.

Gaza's besieged residents faced a near-total communications and Internet blackout as Israel's warplanes dropped bombs and its troops and armour pushed into the Hamas-ruled enclave, with Israeli military chiefs signalling they were gearing up for an expanded ground offensive.

Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Netanyahu warned Israelis to expect a "long and hard" campaign but stopped short of calling the current incursions an invasion. Some of U.S. President Joe Biden's aides have advised Israeli counterparts to hold off on an immediate all-out assault, U.S. officials have said.

Even as initial ground operations appeared limited for now, Netanyahu pledged to spare no effort to free the more than 200 hostages, including Americans and other foreigners, held by Hamas.

"This is the second stage of the war whose goals are clear - to destroy Hamas' governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home," Netanyahu told reporters.

"We are only at the start," he said. "We will destroy the enemy above ground and below ground."

Israel has tightened its blockade and bombarded Gaza for three weeks since the Islamist group Hamas' devastating Oct. 7 attack. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed in the deadliest day of the nation's 75-year history, Israeli authorities said.

Western countries have generally backed what they say is Israel's right to self-defence. But there has been a mounting international outcry over the toll from the bombing and growing calls for a "humanitarian pause" to allow aid to reach Gaza civilians and ease the humanitarian crisis.

Medical authorities in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of 2.3 million people, say 7,650 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's campaign to obliterate the Iran-backed militants.

President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority governs parts of the occupied West Bank while Hamas rules Gaza, said, "Our people in the Gaza Strip are facing a war of genocide and massacres committed by the Israeli occupation forces in full view of the entire world."

With many buildings reduced to rubble and shelter hard to find, Gazans are short of food, water, fuel and medicines. Their plight got worse from Friday night when phone and internet services were cut - followed by heavy bombing through the night. The communications outage persisted into Sunday.

"God help anyone under the rubble," said one Gaza journalist, who spent a terrifying night in a building stairway as bombs fell and Israeli forces appeared to exchange fire with Palestinian fighters.

Israel's chief military spokesperson declined to say whether Israel was behind the telecommunications blackout in Gaza but said it would do what it needed to protect its forces.

Targeting Maze Of Hamas Tunnels

Israel sent troops and tanks into Gaza on Friday night, focusing on infrastructure including the extensive tunnel network built by Hamas, the Israeli military said. It provided no details on the size of the deployment.

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