The Israeli army said it’s making preparations for “significant ground operations” in Gaza, a week after Hamas militants struck southern Israel in one of the worst attacks in the country’s history.
(Bloomberg) — The Israeli army said it’s making preparations for “significant ground operations” in Gaza, a week after Hamas militants struck southern Israel in one of the worst attacks in the country’s history.
The next phase of the war can include a coordinated land, sea and air assault, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Saturday.
Israel has called up a record 300,000 reservists and has been pounding Gaza after the unprecedented incursion in which more than 1,000 Hamas fighters swept across the border and attacked Israeli military posts, bases and communities. More than 1,300 Israelis died, mostly civilians, and up to 150 people were abducted and taken into Gaza.
More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli bombing campaign as fears mount of major casualties once Israel sends troops into the crowded coastal strip, home to 2.3 million people. Israel on Friday gave 24 hours for more than 1 million Palestinians to evacuate their homes in Gaza.
Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, said Israeli air strikes killed another nine of its hostages in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 26.
Many governments, including the US and European countries, are rushing to evacuate citizens in anticipation of an Israeli incursion into Gaza, though the Rafah border crossing out of Gaza to Egypt was reported to be closed to foreign nationals Saturday.
The US Embassy in Israel said it’s “working on potential options for departure from Gaza.” US citizens living in or visiting Gaza may be allowed to leave on Saturday, according to a US official.
The embassy said it’s facilitating more chartered evacuation flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and urged US citizens and immediate family members to use them “while they are available.” The State Department in Washington authorized the departure of non-emergency embassy personnel on Friday, citing an “unpredictable security situation.”
With commercial flights to Israel disrupted, European countries such as France and Germany also have been providing planes to get their citizens out of the region.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said during a visit to Cairo on Saturday that 30 Turkish dual citizens have managed to leave Gaza. Israel and Egypt have been given a list of the remaining estimated 270 people in that category, he said.
US President Joe Biden’s team has voiced anxiety about Israel’s 24-hour evacuation demand, a deadline that the European Union and the United Nations called unrealistic. On Friday, Biden said people shouldn’t “lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas.”
French President Emmanuel Macron urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Saturday to abide by humanitarian law and spare civilians, a French government official said.
In a separate call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Netanyahu agreed on the importance of protecting civilians in Gaza, while accusing Hamas of undermining that goal, according to a German government statement. Scholz renewed his expression of “full solidarity with people in Israel.”
–With assistance from Galit Altstein and Selcan Hacaoglu.
(Updates with international evacuation efforts starting in sixth paragraph, Netanyahu calls with European leaders in 12th.)
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