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Israel prepares for ground assault on Gaza as Palestinians struggle to flee

Published : 15 Oct 2023, 22:40

Updated : 16 Oct 2023, 01:51

  DF News Desk
Children are seen in buildings damaged in Israeli airstrikes in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, Oct. 15, 2023. Photo: Xinhua by Khaled Omar.

Israel on Sunday continued its preparations for a massive ground operation in Gaza, mobilizing forces near the Gaza border, as its bloody conflict with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) entered the second week, reported Xinhua.

"Our responsibility now is to enter Gaza, locate where Hamas prepares, plans and launches attacks, and strike hard everywhere -- targeting every commander, every operative, and dismantling their infrastructure," Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi told soldiers near Gaza, according to a video released by the army.

At least 1,284 individuals in Israel were killed in the onslaught by Hamas militants since Oct. 7, according to the official figures released by the Israeli Interior Ministry on Sunday. Among the fatalities, at least 368 have not yet been identified.

The Israeli military has also issued official notifications to at least 155 families to inform them of the abduction of their loved ones.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met for the first time with the families of hostages, and promised to bring the abducted Israelis back.

Speaking at a press conference, IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari again urged residents of the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate southward, adding that Israel has opened humanitarian corridors and "hundreds of thousands" have already fled to the south.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, prior to Israeli warnings, more than 400,000 Palestinians had been internally displaced due to the conflict. So far, 2,670 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, with more than 9,600 injuries reported, the Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry updated on Sunday.

Responding to reports of a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz stated that water is provided "at a specific point" in southern Gaza, without elaborating on the exact location.

However, Mazen Ghoneim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, denied reports that Israel resumed water supply to the Gaza Strip.

Ghoneim told Xinhua that "even if the water supply is resumed, the power outage has made the Water Authority incapable of pumping the water into taps and pumps to finally supply it to Gaza residents."

Israeli evacuation warning has caused confusion and panic among many Gazans, who rushed to flee from their houses by vehicles, carts pulled by donkeys or horses, or just on foot.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Lebanon's Hezbollah military group and Israeli forces in the border area has shown no sign of abating amid fears of a war on the second front, Palestinian eyewitnesses said.

In a northern Israeli community, a man was killed and three others were wounded when anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon across the Blue Line into Israel. The IDF reported that it struck the area in Lebanon from where the missiles were launched. The IDF said it intentionally disrupted GPS operations in northern Israel near Lebanon to thwart Hezbollah's attempts to target Israel.

In the afternoon, eight people were injured in northern Israel as Hezbollah fired nine rockets, and Israeli fighter jets struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon in response, according to the Israeli military.

Also on Sunday, Hezbollah confirmed in a statement that it had bombed several Israeli border sites and settlements, causing several casualties among Israeli troops.