The IDF said forces on the ground joined in the air assault on the Gaza Strip as residents reported massive bombardment, amid fears of an incursion into stranded territory.
« [Israel Defense Forces] air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip, ”the military said in a press release just after midnight local time, without providing further details.
The military then released a statement saying there were no troops inside the Gaza Strip, suggesting it was not a ground invasion but artillery fire and tanks from the border.
“Clarification: There are currently no IDF ground troops inside the Gaza Strip. IDF air and ground forces are carrying out strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, ”the statement said.
The attacks marked a significant escalation of the worst fight in years. Shortly after the initial military announcement, in an apparent reference to the operation, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, tweeted: “The last word has not been said and this operation will continue as long as necessary. “
In the early hours of Friday, masses of red flames lit up the sky as deafening explosions from the outskirts of Gaza City, which is more than a kilometer from the border, woke people up by shaking their buildings. to apartments. The strikes were so loud that people could be heard screaming in fear.
Shortly after starting to attack, the IDF said residents up to 4 km around the border should head for bomb shelters, and militants began firing little rocket rounds. time after the attack.
On Thursday, Israeli military plans for a possible ground operation in Hamas-controlled territory were to be submitted to political leaders. The forces were told to “prepare for combat” and the army called in 7,000 reservists and canceled leave for all combat units.
While the escalation of the military conflict with Gaza is the worst since the 2014 war, Israeli political leaders said on Thursday that violent street clashes between Jews and Arabs inside the country posed a greater threat.
Netanyahu visited the city of Lod, where there have been riots, car fires, destruction of property and violent attacks on individuals.
“We have no greater threat now than these pogroms, and we have no choice but to restore law and order through the determined use of force,” he said. In an earlier statement, he said the country was fighting a battle “on two fronts”.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has declared a “civil war [would] to be a danger to our existence, more than all the dangers that we have from the outside ”.
Inter-communal violence, including beatings, stabbing, shooting and arson, has been reported across the country, from Beer Sheva in the southern Negev to Tiberias and Haifa in the north. A television reporter was attacked in Tel Aviv.
More than 400 people have been arrested and border police have been redeployed from the occupied West Bank to towns inside Israel. “We are in an emergency situation,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said there had been a “total loss of control”. He accused Netanyahu of “leading us to anarchy”. “Jewish and Arab rioters have declared war on Israel, and there is no response, no government, no police, no leadership,” he said.
Lod was closed from Thursday afternoon and a night curfew imposed. Netanyahu said those involved in clashes could be detained indefinitely without charge, a practice known as administrative detention.
In Gaza, militants continued to fire rockets while the Israeli Air Force fired missiles throughout the day. In the enclave, shops, restaurants and parks that would normally be crowded for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr were deserted.
The IDF said it hit a main command center where dozens of Hamas operatives were monitoring, and four apartments from which high-level commanders directed rocket attacks.
Hamas said it had launched a number of “suicide drones” in southern Israel. Drones lock onto targets before releasing explosives. Warning sirens sounded almost continuously throughout the day in towns in southern Israel as Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets.
A total of 103 people, including at least 27 children, were killed in Gaza, according to the health ministry. On Thursday alone, 49 Palestinians were killed in the enclave. In Israel, seven people, including two children, were killed.
More than 1,700 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Monday, according to the IDF. He said a third fell inside Gaza and Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted most of the rest.
Earlier today, US President Joe Biden said there had been “no significant overreaction” on Israel’s part to the Hamas rocket attacks. “The question is how, how do we get to a point, they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, especially rocket attacks which are fired indiscriminately at population centers.” , he told reporters at the White House.
Abu-Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that an Ayyash rocket with a range of 250 km was fired at Ramon airport. Local council said a rocket landed in the area.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary General António Guterres have jointly called for an end to the fighting.
“The main task is to stop violent actions on both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement after a video call with Guterres.