Hamas pledges ‘complete force’ following Israel intensifies ground operations in Gaza


JERUSALEM: Hamas declared on Saturday that its militants in Gaza were ready to confront Israeli attacks with “complete force” after the Israeli military escalated its air and ground assaults on the Palestinian enclave. The Palestinian extremist group, which governs Gaza, previously announced that its fighters were engaging in clashes with Israeli troops near the border with Israel following reports of heightened attacks in Gaza. Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, stated on Friday evening during a televised news briefing that ground forces would expand their operations that night, fueling concerns about a possible ground invasion of Gaza. He also mentioned that Israel’s air force was conducting extensive strikes on Hamas tunnels and other infrastructure. Late on Friday, Hamas’ armed wing announced that its fighters were clashing with Israeli troops in the northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and the central area of Al-Bureij in Gaza. “The Al-Qassam brigades and all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to confront (Israel’s) aggression with complete force and thwart its incursions,” Hamas stated in a statement issued early on Saturday. Furthermore, Hamas dismissed the likelihood of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his army achieving any military victory. Israeli ground forces have been amassing on the outskirts of Gaza since the Palestinian attack on Israeli communities near the strip on October 7. Israel has reported that 1,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and over 200 have been taken hostage, including some foreign nationals and individuals with dual Israeli citizenship. Palestinian health authorities have claimed that over 7,000 Palestinians have died as a result of Israeli bombings. Al Jazeera, which has been broadcasting live footage of frequent explosions in Gaza, reported that Israeli airstrikes targeted areas around the main hospital in the enclave. However, Reuters was unable to verify these reports. The Israeli military has accused Hamas of using the hospital as a shield for its tunnels and operational centers, an allegation that Hamas denies. On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution drafted by Arab nations demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, access for aid to Gaza, and the protection of civilians. While the resolution is not legally binding, it carries political significance and reflects global sentiment. The resolution received 121 votes in favor, with 44 abstentions, and 14 – including Israel and the United States – voting against it. A demonstration organized by a group called Jewish Voice for Peace demanding a ceasefire in the conflict resulted in the closure of Grand Central Terminal, one of New York City’s major transportation hubs. Following Israel’s announcement of an escalation in operations, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby stated that the US supported a pause in Israeli military activity in Gaza to provide humanitarian aid, fuel, and electricity to civilians. Kirby declined to comment on the expanded ground operation but affirmed Washington’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself. He added that if rescuing more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas required a temporary pause, the US supported it. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underscored the importance of protecting civilians during operations in Gaza in a call with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a statement from the Pentagon. Telecom companies and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that internet and phone services had been severed in Gaza due to Israeli bombings. Gaza residents reported that the region was currently without power, resulting in the disruption of crucial medical facilities and the denial of access to clean water. Additionally, half of Gaza’s housing has been damaged, with 20,000 residential units destroyed or deemed uninhabitable, according to the Hamas media office. Palestinians reported receiving renewed Israeli military warnings to relocate from the north to the south of Gaza in order to avoid the war zone. However, undertaking the journey south remains highly perilous due to ongoing airstrikes. Many families have chosen not to evacuate, fearing that they will be unable to return to their homes and land after previous conflicts with Israel. Israeli leaders have vowed to eradicate Hamas and eliminate the leaders and planners behind the October 7 attack. While Israel has indicated its preparedness for a ground invasion, the US and Arab countries have urged it to postpone such an operation in order to prevent an increase in civilian casualties and the outbreak of a larger conflict. Concerns about the risk of a wider Middle East conflict have heightened in recent days, with the US deploying additional military assets to the region as Israel continues to target sites in Gaza and Hamas supporters in Lebanon and Syria.

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