Israel is heading towards a “full offensive” in Gaza, which “will never be what it was” | International

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The Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, assured this Tuesday that Israel is moving towards a “complete offensive” in the Gaza Strip, after intensifying the harshness of its bombings and killing two leaders of Hamas, the armed Islamist organization that Saturday caused at least 900 deaths in the deadliest attack that the country remembers on its territory. In the images arriving from the Palestinian territory, you can see entire blocks of buildings reduced to rubble, despite the fact that the militias of the Strip have in their hands at least 130 Israelis, captured in the operation.

The launching of rockets against Israel has also begun from Lebanon (15, this Tuesday) and Syria, three, by a Palestinian faction, according to a source in the southeast of the country cited by the Reuters agency. In both cases, Israel has responded with bombings. Furthermore, at five in the afternoon, local time (four o'clock in mainland Spain), the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezedín al Qasam Brigades, launched, as it had warned, a volley of rockets at Ashkelon, a city in the southern Israel with 170,000 inhabitants. Late Tuesday afternoon, the Gaza Ministry of Health stated that the deaths in the Strip since Saturday now amount to 900, including 260 children and 230 women. The injured number 4,600.

“I have removed all restrictions, [hemos retomado] control of the area and we are moving towards a complete offensive,” Gallant assured during a visit to the troops on the border with the Strip, in statements reported by local media. “You are going to have the ability to change reality here. You have already seen the price and you will be able to see the change. Hamas wanted change in Gaza, and it is going to change 180 degrees from what it thought. They are going to regret this moment. Gaza will never be what it was.”

Israeli army spokesman Richard Hecht had already indicated on Tuesday morning that the Armed Forces are “focusing on the offensive phase” and “building capabilities”, after having evacuated almost all the inhabitants of the towns in the near Gaza and regained control of the entire territory, except for “very few” Palestinian armed men. Late in the day, the army reported that it killed three of them during fighting – with the support of a drone and a helicopter – in the area of ​​the city of Ashkelon. Israel claims to have stopped new infiltrations in the last 24 hours and found 1,500 bodies of Hamas militiamen who crossed in the surprise operation on Saturday.

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In the Strip, some 200,000 of the 2.2 million inhabitants have already sought refuge, either due to having lost their homes, or due to the intensity of Israeli air and naval bombardments and the foreseeable ground incursion. Many of them are in schools run by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees. Gaza, where the death toll currently stands at 830, has been completely surrounded since Monday, with Israel cutting off the supply of food, electricity and fuel.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) speaks of an increase in mass displacement in the last 24 hours and expects it to increase. Hecht this morning recommended that Gazans who can "leave" through Rafah, because a "disruptive and severe" offensive is coming. It is the only border crossing with the Strip that is not controlled by Israel, and Egypt closed it this Tuesday "until further notice." It was barely functioning on Monday, after a recent bombing. Under normal conditions, only a few Palestinians manage to get out there (after long lines and often with bribes). On Monday, only those who previously had an exit permit were allowed.

An Israeli emergency service official stands next to a window damaged by a Hamas attack in Ashkelon on Monday.
An Israeli emergency service official stands next to a window damaged by a Hamas attack in Ashkelon on Monday. RONEN ZVULUN (REUTERS)

“We are going to act very severely. “This is not the usual contained exchange of blows in which Qatar mediates,” he noted in a video conference with journalists. Later, the Israeli army clarified that Rafah is closed and that it was not “an official call to Gaza residents to leave for Egypt.”

On Monday, the spokesman for the Ezedin al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obaida, announced that they would execute one of the at least 130 Israelis they captured in the operation for each bombing that Israel launches without prior warning. The warning refers to the firing of small missiles - generally with very little explosive charge - shortly before the actual bombing, so that the inhabitants run away.

Two of those killed in an airstrike, on the night of Monday to Tuesday, are Hamas officials, according to the Israeli army. Yoad Abu Shmala was the Minister of Economy of the Gaza Government (in the hands of Hamas since 2007) and Zakaria Abu Maamar was responsible for the internal relations department. Both belong to the political bureau, not the military branch. An official Hamas source has confirmed the deaths to the Reuters agency.

Three journalists dead

Three Palestinian journalists, Said al Taweel, Mohammed Sobboh and Hisham Nawajhah, also died in a bombing that hit a residential building near the fishing port of the capital Gaza, the local journalists' union reported.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has condemned this tightening of the siege that Israel began more than a decade ago, with the support of Egypt for some years. “The imposition of blockades that endanger the lives of civilians by depriving them of goods essential for their survival is prohibited by international humanitarian law,” he stressed in a statement.

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