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Israeli defence chief says troops will soon see Gaza ‘from inside’

ISRAELI Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told troops gathered at the Gaza border that they would soon see the Palestinian enclave “from inside”, suggesting an expected ground invasion with the aim of annihilating Hamas could be nearing.

Israel pounded Gaza with more air strikes on Thursday over the October 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 Israelis.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed U.S. President Joe Biden with a visit to demonstrate Western support for the war against Hamas militants.

Israel has put the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people under siege and bombarded the enclave in strikes that have killed thousands and made more than a million homeless.

In Gaza’s north, footage obtained by Reuters from the Jabaliya refugee camp showed residents digging with their bare hands inside a damaged building to free a small boy and girl trapped under masonry. The body of a man was also pulled out.

Meanwhile, Egypt took steps to prepare to let in aid through its border crossing with Gaza with first deliveries expected on Friday. The crossing has been out of operation since the first days of the conflict and Israeli bombardments on the Palestinian side of the border.

“You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come,” Gallant told soldiers. Troops were not expected to enter while foreign leaders were visiting.

Gallant also said the battle will be long and hard.

Shortly after Gallant’s statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video of himself with troops near the border promising victory.

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The families of some of those taken hostage to Gaza from Israel begged Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, to release them and urged the Israeli military to consider their safety as it pursues Hamas.

An estimated 200 people, including 30 minors and young children and 20 people over the age of 60, are being held, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said, citing military sources.

Biden returned to the United States overnight from his brief Israel trip after a planned summit in Jordan joined by the Egyptian and Palestinian leaders was cancelled over a Gaza hospital explosion that Palestinians blamed on an Israeli air strike but that Israel said was caused by a failed rocket launch by militants. Biden backed the Israeli account.

An unclassified U.S. intelligence report, seen by Reuters on Thursday, estimated that the death toll from the hospital blast was “probably at the low end of the 100 to 300 spectrum,” but added that the assessment may evolve. It said only light structural damage had been observed at the hospital.

Palestinian officials had said 471 people were killed in the blast at Al-Ahli al-Arabi hospital late on Tuesday.

Biden had only limited success in his attempt to get aid into Gaza, getting an agreement with Israel and Egypt for 20 trucks. Two Egyptian security sources said the equipment was sent on Thursday through its crossing to repair roads on the Gaza side. More than 100 trucks were waiting in Egypt.

The bombing and anticipated ground invasion has heightened fears of the conflict spreading.

READ:  Israeli strikes on Gaza intensify as humanitarian crisis deepens

The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said it fired rockets at an Israeli position in the village of Manara on Thursday and drew an Israeli artillery barrage in response after the worst escalation in violence on the border in 17 years.

The Israeli military said at least 20 rockets and an anti-tank missile had been fired from Lebanon.

Eight Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the Nur Shams refugee camp in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, the Palestinian Red Crescent said on Thursday.

The spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing, Abu Obeida on Al Jazeera called for anti-Israel rallies across Arab and Muslim countries on Friday and said the group was prepared for a long battle with Israel.

‘THEY KILLED CHILDREN!’

According to Palestinian health officials, the toll from Israeli strikes on Gaza has risen to more than 3,500 dead and more than 12,000 wounded.

In Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip men rushed to the main Nasser hospital carrying dead and wounded children in their arms, in ambulances and the back of a flatbed truck after a bomb struck a house.

Medics said four people were killed and many wounded, mainly displaced children from northern Gaza who had been playing soccer in a lot next door.

“I saw body parts, dismembered children, what shall I describe to you?” said Hassan Al-Hindi, a neighbour who saw the strike. “They killed children,” he cried.

Gaza residents scoffed at the gesture of limited truckloads of aid for 2.3 million people cut off from food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

READ:  Rebuilding bombed Gaza homes may take 80 years, UN says

“We want nothing from Arab and foreign countries except to stop the violent bombardment on our houses,” said El-Awad El-Dali, 65, speaking near ruined homes.

In another area, a shopping district was reduced to rubble, with a toddler’s pink cot overturned on the ground, windows blown off a clothing store and damaged vehicles.

“I’m over 70 years old, I’ve lived through several wars, it’s never been like this,” said Rafat Al-Nakhala, who had arrived after obeying Israel’s order for civilians to flee Gaza City in the north.

The United Nations says around half of Gazans have been made homeless, still trapped inside the enclave, one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Their plight has enraged the Middle East, making it harder for Biden and other Western leaders to rally Arab allies to prevent the war from spreading.

Before Biden left, he made a plea for Israelis to rein in their wrath: “While you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. And while we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”

By NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI and EMILY ROSE

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