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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Israeli tanks venture into Gaza ‘to prepare the battlefield’

Israeli soldiers take up a position in northern Israel on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

By Nadav Gavrielov

The Israeli military said Thursday that it had briefly sent tanks into the northern Gaza Strip overnight as part of preparations for the next stage of fighting, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that a ground invasion of the enclave was likely.

It was at least the second time in the conflict that Israel had conducted a limited ground raid in Gaza, after it said some troops had briefly entered the territory two weeks ago. The military said in a Telegram post that it had hit multiple targets and “operated to prepare the battlefield,” without offering details.

Although details of the incursion remained scarce, a video released by Israel’s military showed Israeli tanks firing inside Gazan territory. The area is immediately next to Gaza’s northern border near the Mediterranean Sea, according to an examination of the footage by The New York Times.

Nearly three weeks after the war began, it remains unclear if or when Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza. In a televised speech Wednesday evening, Netanyahu did not offer details on the scope of a possible invasion but vowed that Israel would exact a price for the Oct. 7 incursion led by the Hamas armed group that killed more than 1,400 people.

The United States has asked Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza for a few days to give it more time to provide more protection for U.S. troops at bases in the region, according to U.S. officials. The Biden administration has also been trying to buy more time for hostage negotiations and to allow more aid to enter Gaza. It also wants the Israeli military to refine its military objectives and potentially move away from a grinding urban fight that would incur a large number of casualties.

Israel has been relentlessly bombing Gaza from the air, carrying out more than 250 strikes over the past day, its military said. Israel has said it is hitting Hamas targets, but Palestinians accused it of indiscriminately killing civilians. The Hamas-run Gazan health ministry said more than 7,000 people have died. Those figures cannot be independently verified.

Here is what else to know:

— A day after President Joe Biden became the most prominent person to cast doubt on the death toll in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry released a list of the names of people it said had died in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since Oct. 7. The list includes 6,747 names, including those of 2,665 children. The ministry said it did not name a further 281 people who died because their bodies could not be identified.

— Fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip have grown so dire that the U.N. agency that has helped feed, school and shelter Palestinians there for decades said it had begun to significantly reduce its operations. It said it had nearly exhausted its reserves of fuel, which it needs to run generators. Israel has blocked fuel from entering Gaza, fearful that it could be used by Hamas for military objectives.

— As of Thursday morning, 74 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies had entered Gaza since Saturday, far short of the 100 a day or more that the United Nations says the territory needs. As a U.S.-backed deal between Israel and Egypt falls short of producing a sustained flow of aid, U.N. officials and diplomats attribute the delay partly to Israel’s demands to inspect the trucks at a border checkpoint about 25 miles from the crossing where the vehicles move into Gaza from Egypt.

— The U.N. General Assembly was expected to vote Thursday on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the conflict. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but reflect a wider global view than the U.N. Security Council, which has been deeply divided on a response to the war.

— The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring solidarity with Israel and pledging to support it in its war with Hamas. Separately, Biden’s pick to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Israel, Jacob Lew, is poised to be confirmed to the post in the coming days.

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