Israel Latest: Gaza Air Strikes to Intensify Before ‘Next Stage’

Israel said it will step up aerial strikes over Gaza in preparation for the “next stage” of its military operation, likely a ground invasion.

(Bloomberg) — Israel said it will step up aerial strikes over Gaza in preparation for the “next stage” of its military operation, likely a ground invasion.

Food and medical supplies began crossing into Gaza from Egypt for the first time since the Israel-Hamas war erupted two weeks ago, addressing a key demand of US, European and Arab leaders as the humanitarian situation in the besieged territory worsens. 

Dozens of leaders and senior officials from the Middle East, Europe and Africa converged on Cairo, searching for ways to prevent the Israel-Hamas war becoming a wider conflict — and airing mostly entrenched viewpoints. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he’d agreed with US President Joe Biden that the Rafah crossing should be open “sustainably.” 

(All time stamps are Israeli time)

US Strengthens Mideast Defense Posture (5:20 a.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had taken steps to strengthen the department’s posture in the Middle East after talks with President Joe Biden.

The government will add more Patriot battalions to locations in the region and activate a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery to increase protection for US forces. Additional staff have been placed on “prepare to deploy orders” to increase readiness, Austin said in a statement.

The US “will continue to assess our force posture requirements in the region and consider deploying additional capabilities as necessary,” Austin said.

Biden Says He’s Talking to Israelis (11:54 p.m.)

Biden said Saturday he’s in touch with Israeli leaders when asked whether he’s encouraging Israel to delay a military move into Gaza. “I’m talking to the Israelis,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware, where he’s spending the weekend. Biden’s national security team briefed him on latest developments in Israel and Gaza earlier Saturday, according to the White House.

Israeli Army to Step Up Air Strikes in Gaza (9:20 p.m.)

Israel said it will step up air strikes over Gaza in preparation for the “next stage” of its military operation.

IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari, in televised comments, didn’t specify the exact aims of the stepped-up strikes but suggested a ground invasion of Gaza is nearing. 

“We need to enter under the best possible conditions and this is what we are doing now, as the next stage of war approaches,” he said. “We will narrow the risks to our forces over the next stages. This is why we have once again urged residents of Gaza to keep moving south.”

Qatar Optimistic Hostages to Be Freed ‘Very Soon,’ Welt Reports (7:17 p.m.)

Qatar, which was key to the release of two US citizens abducted by Hamas, is optimistic that talks with the group will “very soon” result in the release of all civilian hostages, German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported. Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack on Israel captured more than 200 people.

Massive Turnout for Pro-Palestinian Rally in London (6:50 p.m.)

As many as 100,000 people marched through central London to demand a cease-fire in Israel’s war with Hamas and in support of the Palestinian cause. It was likely the largest of a series of pro-Palestinian demonstrations held around the world that coincided with a summit meeting in Cairo to try to bring an end to the violence. Smaller demonstrations were also held in Sydney, Rome and New York.

Hezbollah Says It Struck Israel After Member Killed (6:15pm)

Iran-backed Hezbollah said it fired guided missiles at an Israeli site and launched missiles at other targets near the border with Lebanon following the death of one of its members, the militant group’s Al Manar TV reported. The Israeli military said that an anti-tank missile was launched toward northern Israel and that the army responded with live fire. Israel said earlier that its aircraft hit targets in Lebanon after incoming fire.

AP Analysis Backs White House on Gaza Rocket Origin (5 p.m.)

Analysis of video footage and satellite imagery suggests that a rocket that struck the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday, killing hundreds, was fired from within Palestinian territory, the Associated Press reported. 

That’s consistent with conclusions reached by the White House and Congress, as well as Israel. In contrast, the UK’s Channel 4 reported on Friday that an analysis by UK-based Forensic Architecture and others cast doubt on the rocket’s origin. 

Israel Says It Plans to Disentangle From Gaza After War on Hamas

Blinken Credits US Diplomacy for Aid Delivery (4:17 p.m.)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken credited “days of US diplomatic engagement in the region” for the opening of the Rafah crossing to allow aid to Gaza. The convoy shows “that the international community is beginning to address the humanitarian crisis” there, he said in a statement that also cited efforts by Egypt, Israel and the UN. 

German Citizen Found Dead in Israel, Bild Reports (4 p.m.)

A 68-year-old German woman who was at the Nir Oz Kibbutz on the day of the Hamas attack was found dead in Israel, Bild-Zeitung reported, without saying where it got the information. Efrat Katz had been missing since the attacks and relatives feared that she was among the hostages taken to the Gaza Strip. 

The newspaper provided no details on where she was found or who discovered the body. Her daughter, two grandchildren, partner and his seriously ill ex-wife are all still missing, Bild reported. Germany’s Foreign Office referred to an earlier statement that a “low one-digit” number German nationals had been killed in Israel. 

Israeli Army Drops Leaflets Urging Gaza City Evacuation (3:40 pm)

Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on Gaza City on Saturday, reiterating previous requests that all civilian residents there evacuate to the southern area of the Gaza Strip. 

Residents said the wording of the leaflets carried a stricter tone than before, saying that “whoever chooses not to evacuate would likely be designated as a member of a terrorist organization.” 

Swiss Probe Recent Alleged Payments to Hamas (2 p.m.)

Switzerland’s top prosecutor announced the start of a criminal investigation into alleged payments made to Hamas weeks before the attacks on Israel, the Swiss public broadcaster reported on Saturday.

Attorney General Stefan Blaettler said the accusation centers on financial support to a terrorist organization, while declining to say who the proceedings are directed against.

Arab Leaders Repeat Calls for De-Escalation at Summit (1 p.m.)

Egypt opened its crisis summit in Cairo with the leaders of Italy, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and South Africa among those on hand, as well as senior officials from the EU, Turkey, Russia and China. 

Many of the Arab officials reiterated calls for de-escalation as Israel continues airstrikes on Gaza and prepares for an expected ground offensive. No senior officials from Israel or the US were expected to attend. Neither were any from Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU. 

Israel Arrests More Palestinians in the West Bank (11 a.m.)

Israeli security forces arrested about 110 people in the West Bank overnight, according to Palestinian officials, as tensions in the territory rise.

Israel has imprisoned about 1,000 people from the West Bank since Oct. 7, amid an increase in protests in support of Gazans. Unlike Gaza, which is run by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has control over Palestinians in the larger West Bank.

Aid Flows Into Gaza for First Time Since War Began (10:18 a.m.)

About 20 trucks carrying aid for Gaza began crossing the Rafah border point, the only non-Israeli border crossing that Gaza has, the Egyptian TV channel Extra News reported on Saturday. 

The head of the UN’s World Health Organization said supplies would include “trauma and chronic disease medicines, and basic essential medicines.” The UN’s World Food Program said the convoy also included 60 tons of emergency food supplies, including canned tuna, wheat flour, pasta, canned beans and canned tomato paste. 

US Says Unclear How Long Border Would Stay Open (8:40 a.m.)

The US embassy in Israel said it was unclear how long the Rafah crossing would remain open for foreign citizens to depart Gaza. 

Egypt’s Leader Says Israel Should Take In People Fleeing Gaza

“We anticipate that many people would attempt to cross should the border open, and US citizens attempting to enter Egypt should expect a potentially chaotic and disorderly environment on both sides of the crossing,” the embassy said.

Israel’s Iron Dome Is Outstanding But Not Enough: Tobin Harshaw

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