Monday March 04, 2024
Israel ´heads into 2nd stage of war´ despite warning
Published : 29 Oct 2023, 01:06
Updated : 29 Oct 2023, 01:11
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that the country's war cabinet and political cabinet "unanimously decided to expand the ground operation" in the Gaza Strip, reported Xinhua.
Meanwhile, regional countries warned Israel against further ground operations.
In a press conference joined by other senior officials in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said Israel is now "heading into the second stage of the war," during which his country will try to achieve its target of "destruction of Hamas's military and governing capabilities, and returning the hostages home."
Netanyahu also warned that the war would be "long and hard" and demanded again that Palestinian civilians evacuate northern Gaza where Israel is focusing its attack.
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi also said in a video statement on Saturday that a ground operation was imminent, adding that the goals of the IDF "dictate a ground offensive."
Israeli forces have conducted limited ground operations in recent days in Gaza ahead of what is believed to be a massive ground invasion. Over 300,000 reservist troops were called up for duty, while many of them amassing along the border with Gaza.
According to statements released by the IDF on Saturday, the Israeli air force hit more than 150 underground tunnels and bunkers of Hamas, in addition to the pinpoint ground incursions.
On the same day, Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), said in a televised speech that it is ready to hold talks with Israel on solving the hostage issue, but Israel did not show "real seriousness." Al-Qassam Brigades stressed the only condition for releasing the hostages was for Israel to free all Palestinian prisoners.
Netanyahu met with relatives of some of the hostages and the encounter was reported as tense, as the families called for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the hostages.
Following the meeting, family members held a rally in front of the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, expressing concerns about the potential risks to the hostages if a ground incursion into Gaza were to occur.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant addressed these concerns during a press conference, stating that "the more military pressure we apply, the greater the chance of reaching a solution regarding the hostages."
Countries in the region warned Israel on Saturday against further ground operations in the coastal enclave. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "condemns and denounces any ground operations carried out by Israel due to the threat they pose to the lives of Palestinian civilians".
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in a post on social media platform X that an "Israeli ground escalation will have dire results for civilians, and devastating humanitarian and economic dimensions."
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and visiting Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani stressed in Jordan's capital Amman the importance of joint Arab action to halt the ongoing Israel-Hamas escalation.
Also in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the West of failing to stop the Israeli offensive and slammed Israel's attacks on Gaza at a pro-Palestinian rally. He said that "it's the West that is most responsible" for the killings in Gaza.
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned in a statement that Israeli behavior "devoid of any controls or accountability" may ignite the Middle East, fuel hatred in the world, and threaten regional and international peace.
The Israel-Hamas conflict has entered its 22nd day, and the death toll of Palestinians from Israeli military strikes on the Gaza Strip has risen to 7,703, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, about 1,400 Israelis were killed, the majority of them in the Hamas offensive that occurred three weeks ago, while about 230 civilians, the majority of them civilians, are being held captive by Hamas.