Israel briefing: Five key developments in the Israel-Hamas war on day 22
Israel has launched an expanded ground operation in Gaza, with increased bombardment and artillery fire overnight.
The strikes have knocked out communications and created a near-blackout of information, while multiple Hamas commanders have allegedly been killed.
Here are the five key developments this afternoon:
1. Israel’s overnight assault
Israel intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Friday evening, claiming it struck 150 underground targets including “terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure”.
Hundreds of buildings and houses were destroyed in the air and artillery assault, which a spokesman for the Gaza Civil Defence said had “changed the landscape of northern Gaza”.
The military released grainy images on Saturday, showing tank columns moving slowly in open areas of Gaza.
“The forces are still on the ground and are continuing the war,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli army spokesman, indicating that the next stage has begun in what is expected to evolve into an all-out ground offensive in northern Gaza.
He said two key Hamas military commanders were killed overnight, arguing that Israel was facing a “weakened” enemy. There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 377 people had been killed.
2. Communication blackout across Gaza
The bombardment also knocked out communications in Gaza, creating a near-blackout of information from the besieged enclave and largely cutting off its 2.3 million people from the outside world.
Internet access and the phone network have been completely cut, throwing Palestinians into isolation. Electricity had already been knocked out by Israel in the early stages of the war.
“The bombs were everywhere, the building was shaking,” Hind al-Khudary, a journalist in central Gaza and one of the few people with phone service, told the Associated Press. “We can’t reach anyone or contact anyone. I do not know where my family is.”
Residents have no way of calling ambulances, and the Palestinian Red Crescent said emergency teams were chasing the sounds of artillery barrages and airstrikes to search for people in need. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organisation, said the blackout has made it “impossible for ambulances to reach the injured”.
3. Drones hit Egypt and injure six
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, said his country’s sovereignty should be respected after drones were intercepted after entering Egyptian air space on Friday.
Israel said it was the target of the drones, which it blamed on Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi movement.
Egypt’s military said the drones, which fell on the Egyptian towns of Taba and Nuweiba near the Israeli border, injuring six, originated in the southern Red Sea. It did not say who launched them.
Mr el-Sisi also warned: “Regardless of where it comes from, I have warned of the expansion of the conflict. The region will become a ticking time bomb that impacts us all.”
4. Lebanon missile downed
Israel’s military said it had stopped a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones, while the Lebanese authorities issued precautionary guidance in case it has to evacuate Beirut airport as border tensions rise.
The Israeli army and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group in Lebanon have exchanged fire on a daily basis since the start of the Gaza conflict three weeks ago.
It is the biggest flare-up on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since the two sides fought a war in 2006.
Israel’s military said on Saturday that it had “thwarted a surface-to-air missile that was fired from Lebanon” towards an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle. It said the military had responded by “striking the origin of the missile’s fire”.
It also said one of its drones had hit a “terrorist cell” in Lebanon which had tried to launch an anti-tank missile at Israel.
5. Israeli forces expanding humanitarian efforts
Rear Admiral Hagari said forces were “broadening the humanitarian effort” and would allow trucks carrying food, water and medicine to enter southern Gaza.
It comes as Medecins Sans Frontieres and other aid groups said they remain unable to communicate with their teams in the Gaza Strip for up to 12 hours.
Mr el-Sisi also said that the number of trucks allowed into the besieged territory is far below the needs of Gaza’s population.
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