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Israel to “destroy the enemy above ground and below ground,” Netanyahu assures

Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that Israeli forces unleashed the second phase of the Gaza war by stepping up ground operations against Hamas militants, pledging to “destroy the enemy above ground and below ground”

Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu cautioned Israelis to prepare for a “long and arduous” military campaign. He reiterated his call for the Palestinian population to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip, where Israel has centred its offensive.

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.

Israel, as it is known, has blockaded the Gaza Strip and shelled from the air and ground for three weeks since that surprise attack on 7 October by Hamas. Gaza’s civilian population has been virtually incommunicado since that time, when Israeli jets dropped more bombs on the Palestinian enclave, and since yesterday has been plunged into information darkness.

Western countries are ambivalent but supportive of Israel’s right to self-defence and the kind of action that was taken yesterday, but the international community has increasingly shown concern and frustration at the huge number of casualties due to Israeli bombing and has increasingly called for a pause to allow humanitarian aid to reach the civilians of Gaza. For instance, according to health authorities in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 2.3 million, 7,650 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s campaign to destroy militants.

At this time, the Israeli prime minister states that “We are only at the start.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas states the following:

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.

This situation is extremely contemporary, with civilians facing shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine, as many buildings have been reduced to rubble and housing is hard to find. As already mentioned, the situation has worsened since Friday’s complete blockade by Israel. Palestinians say nowhere is safe, with homes in the south of the densely populated territory being destroyed.

A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Notably, Hamas said on Saturday that it was going to reach an agreement with Israel over more than 200 hostages held in Gaza, but that Israel had “stalled” the process.

Israel’s military spokesman rejected the reports, saying Hamas was “cynically” trying to sway public opinion.

At the same time, battles are taking place. The al-Qassam brigades said its fighters were battling Israeli troops in Gaza’s northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of Al-Bureij.

Al-Qassam Brigades and all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to confront the aggression with full force and thwart the incursions, it said.

The US and other Western countries have also urged Israel to refrain from a ground offensive because of the risk not only of heavy civilian casualties but also of widening the conflict to include Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. This is due to the fact that US forces are under fire from Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. Washington is transferring additional military forces and means to the region.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, told reporters that Israel is not interested in expanding military action beyond Gaza, but asserted that Israel is ready for a war on multiple fronts.

Israel’s stance led hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets Saturday in cities across Europe, the Middle East and Asia in support of Palestine and its right to exist.

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