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Israel’s Defence Forces have spent the past week preparing for a massive operation to crush Hamas after some 360,000 reservists were called up to encircle Gaza with tanks, artillery and armoured vehicles.

But now the expected ground assault appears to be on hold, with IDF spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht refusing to confirm his troops will deploy into the Palestinian enclave.

‘We are preparing for the next stages of war. We haven’t said what they will be,’ Hecht teased.

‘Everybody’s talking about the ground offensive. It might be something different.’

The IDF’s ambiguous messaging around its expected onslaught in Gaza comes hours before US President Joe Biden is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with speculation abound the next step of the Israeli military operation may be postponed until after the leaders share talks. 

In the meantime, Israel’s air force continues its incessant bombing campaign of targets throughout Gaza. 

The enclave’s Health Ministry this afternoon reported the number of Palestinians killed in the strikes has now more than 3,000 – an average of 300 a day since Hamas launched its surprise attacks on Israeli towns and cities on October 7.

Israeli troops with a variety of military vehicles at a gathering site at an undisclosed location along the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel, 17 October 2023

Israeli troops in Armoured Personnel Carriers patrolling along the Israel-Gaza border

Israeli troops in Armoured Personnel Carriers patrolling along the Israel-Gaza border 17 October 2023

Israeli soldiers take a position in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona close to the border with Lebanon on October 16, 2023

Israeli soldiers blocking the road leading to the Israeli-Lebanon border, 17 October 2023

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht

U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon his arrival to Tel Aviv, Israel

Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said that Israeli forces ‘will commence the enhanced military activities when the timing suits the goal’. 

But any delay to a ground offensive would come as a surprise after Netanyahu today said preparations were being made around the clock to launch the ground offensive, with nearly 400,000 soldiers gearing up for battle in Gaza.

He pledged: ‘They are ready to take action to defeat the bloodthirsty monsters who have risen against us to destroy us. Hamas thought that we would come apart – we will demolish Hamas.’

Scores of Israeli soldiers were yesterday photographed with arms draped over each other’s shoulders in a ‘band of brothers’ moment as they prepared near Ashkelon, by the Gaza border.

And scores of tanks have been pictured trundling towards the border as heavy armour and artillery take up positions around the enclave.  

The Israeli military’s rules of engagement have reportedly been ‘loosened’ for the ground invasion to allow fewer checks before shooting.

But US President Biden, who has repeatedly proclaimed support for Israel, has warned any move for the country to reoccupy Gaza would be a ‘big mistake’. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, back in Israel after a whistlestop regional tour, said Biden’s visit tomorrow would be a statement of ‘solidarity with Israel’ and an ‘ironclad commitment to its security’.

Washington has already sent two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean ‘to deter hostile actions against Israel’, and the Pentagon has put 2,000 troops on deployment alert to be able ‘to respond quickly to the evolving security environment in the Middle East’.

US media said the troops would cover support roles such as medical assistance and handling explosives.

But no official agenda to the meeting between Biden and Netanyahu has been given.

A woman embraces the body of a Palestinian child killed in Israeli strikes, at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, October 17, 2023

More than 1,000 children have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces since October 7 (as of Monday)

Palestinians evacuate wounded from a building destroyed in Israeli bombardment in Rafah refugee camp in Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023

A Palestinian woman weeps after an Israeli airstrike on the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023

Palestinians attend the funeral prayer of the Palestinians who died during the Israeli airstrikes in Dair Al-Balah, Gaza on October 17, 2023

Relief convoys which have been waiting for days in Egypt were on October 17 headed towards the Rafah border crossing with the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza, aid officials said

While in Tel-Aviv, Biden is expected to reaffirm US support for Israel but also push for the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow desperately needed aid to reach the civilian population.

The White House said it had been ‘crystal clear about the need for humanitarian aid’.

Israel has claimed its bombs are targeting known Hamas command and operation centres. 

‘When we see a target, when we see something moving that is Hamas, we’ll take care of it. We’ll handle it,’ said Hecht. 

But today several airstrikes targeted areas of southern Gaza where the Israeli army had told Palestinians to flee, killing dozens of people.

Violence along Israel’s border with Lebanon has also led to concerns over a widening regional conflict that diplomats have been working to prevent.

In Gaza, people wounded in the air strikes this morning were rushed to hospital after heavy attacks outside the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Younis, residents reported.

Basem Naim, a senior Hamas official and former health minister, reported 27 people were killed in Rafah and 30 in Khan Younis in individual strikes there.

An Associated Press reporter saw around 50 bodies brought to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Family members came to claim the bodies, wrapped in white bedsheets, some soaked in blood.

Palestinians rescue a girl from the rubble of a building after an Israeli airstrike at the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023

A Palestinian reacts amidst the rubble of a building after an Israeli airstrike on the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023

Palestinian rescuers arrive at the scene after an Israeli strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 17, 2023

An air strike in Deir al Balah reduced a house to rubble, killing nine members of the family living there. Three members of another family that had evacuated from Gaza City were killed in a neighbouring home. 

The dead included one man and 11 women and children. 

Witnesses said there was no warning before the strike.

Iran’s foreign minister warned that ‘pre-emptive action is possible’ if Israel moves closer to a ground offensive. 

Hossein Amirabdollahian’s threat followed a pattern of escalating rhetoric from Iran, which supports Hamas.

Israel has sealed off and bombed Hamas-ruled Gaza since the militant attack on southern Israel on October 7 killed over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and left about 200 hostages held captive in Gaza.

In addition to the 3,000 confirmed dead, another 1,200 people across Gaza are believed buried under the rubble, health authorities said. 

Emergency teams struggled to rescue people while cut off from the internet and mobile networks, running out of fuel and exposed to unceasing air strikes. 

But the strikes have not stopped Hamas militants from continuing to attack Israel with rockets launched from Gaza.



Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk

Content source – www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com

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