Israeli soldiers continued their ground operations in the Gaza Strip on Saturday night (28), after having carried out several incursions into the area since Friday (27), the army announced. “We have entered a new phase of the war,” said Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after a night of intense bombardment.
RFI – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that the ground operations carried out by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip constituted the second stage of a “long and difficult” war against Hamas.
During a press conference alongside Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, Netanyahu assured that everything would be done to rescue the more than 200 Israeli and foreign hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist group. Ground operations could help in the release of hostages by increasing pressure on Hamas, Galantt said.
“Since early Friday evening, a combined force of tanks, engineers and infantry has been operating on the ground in the north of the Gaza Strip,” according to an army statement. Backed by a “powerful and precise” artillery barrage, “our forces are carrying out ground operations in the Gaza Strip,” the head of the Israeli Armed Forces, General Herzi, said in a speech.
The Israeli army also warned that it now considers Gaza City and its region a “battlefield” and ordered residents to “leave immediately” in a southerly direction.
According to the spokesman for the Civil Defense in Gaza, Mahmoud Bassal, “hundreds of buildings and houses were completely destroyed” in the night attacks. Communications and the internet have been cut off since Friday in the Palestinian territory.
Missiles from Gaza also targeted Israel, according to AFP journalists, who observed interceptions by Israeli air defenses. At least two projectiles hit Israeli soil, according to the authorities.
Exchanges of fire between Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel continued on the Lebanese-Israeli border. A shell hit the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the south of the country, according to a spokesman for the organization who indicated that there were no casualties, but some damage. He said that UNIFIL was trying to verify who fired the shot.
Exchange of hostages for prisoners
Hamas’ military arm said on Saturday that it was ready to release the hostages taken during the attack on Israeli soil in exchange for the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
The families of the hostages, most of them Israelis, “are worried about the fate” of their relatives and are demanding explanations from the government following the army’s intense bombardment of Gaza, they said in a statement. According to the Israeli authorities, around 230 hostages are being held in the Gaza Strip.
The UN said it feared an “avalanche of human suffering” in this Palestinian territory where there are 2.4 million inhabitants who lack water, food, electricity and who have been without communications or internet since Friday.
The Hamas Health Ministry announced in its latest report that 7,703 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war with Israel, including more than 3,500 children.
According to the Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people have been killed in the country, mainly civilians and the majority during the October 7 attack carried out by Hamas.