Israel intensifies Gaza assault and severs communications across territory | THE GUARDIAN

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Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in “Israel intensifies Gaza assault and severs communications across territory”, an article by Julian Borger in Ashkelon, Rory Carroll and Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem and Robert Tait in Washington for the GUARDIAN | Oct. 27, 2023.

“I don’t think is the ground operation everyone has been talking about,” Avi Melamed, a former intelligence official and military analyst, said. “It’s definitely an expansion of the volume of Israeli attacks on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but first and foremost it is to pressure Hamas to release the hostages. “

IDF announces escalation of air and ground operations as UN warns besieged territory faces ‘massive health hazard’

Israeli air and ground forces are stepping up their operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s chief military spokesperson said late on Friday, amid exceptionally heavy bombing and a communications blackout across the embattled territory.

After nightfall, frequent explosions from airstrikes lit up the sky over Gaza City. The Red Crescent, the World Health Organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, Unicef and other aid groups said they had lost all contact with their staff in Gaza. The Palestinian phone service provider, Paltel, said its phone connections and internet services had been cut off.

“In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” said the Israel Defence Forces spokesperson, R Adm Daniel Hagari, adding that aerial attacks had been targeting Hamas tunnels and other targets. “In addition to the attacks that we carried out in recent days, ground forces are expanding their activity this evening,” he said. “The IDF is acting with great force … to achieve the objectives of the war.”

In Ashkelon, an Israeli seaside town seven miles (12km) north of the Gaza border, the constant thump of detonations could be heard as helicopters and warplanes flew to and fro along the seafront. The road north was busy with people who had put off their departure until the last minute.

Mark Regev, a senior government adviser, said Hamas would pay for its crimes. “Tonight we are starting payback,” he said. “When this is over, Gaza will be very different.”

Hamas’s military wing said in a statement that it was confronting Israeli forces in the areas of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza and Burej in the centre of the territory – both entry points that have been used by IDF forces in previous conflicts.

The escalation came as the UN general assembly overwhelmingly called for an immediate and sustainable humanitarian truce in Gaza. The nonbinding vote passed with 120 votes in favour, while 45 abstained and 14 – including Israel and the US – voted against.

Earlier on Friday, the UN said basic services in Gaza had crumbled, leaving people exposed to major outbreaks of disease as the streets overflowed with sewage and food and water and medicine vanished.

Gaza had all but run out of fuel and was on the brink of a “massive health hazard”, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN relief and works agency for Palestinian people, said on Friday. Unesco said Israel’s bombardment has damaged more than 200 schools – about 40% of Gaza’s total. The UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said 14 of its staff had been killed in the previous 24 hours.

The IDF announcement came after Israel told its own population to brace for a protracted and gruelling full-scale ground offensive. It will last “a long time” and be followed by lower-intensity fighting as Israeli forces destroy “pockets of resistance”, the country’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, told reporters. Earlier this week Israeli troops and armoured vehicles mounted two brief raids into Gaza.

“I don’t think is the ground operation everyone has been talking about,” Avi Melamed, a former intelligence official and military analyst, said. “It’s definitely an expansion of the volume of Israeli attacks on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but first and foremost it is to pressure Hamas to release the hostages. “

“The very clear message is that Israel will not allow Hamas unlimited time and manoeuvring space to play the hostages card,” Melamed said. “The other purpose is it is part of the preparatory phase for the next Israeli military expansion of the operation.”

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has promised to invade Gaza since a Hamas onslaught on 7 October left more than 1,400 people dead and about 220 taken to Gaza as hostages. Israeli bombardments have reduced towns and cities to rubble and killed more than 7,300 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel and the US have disputed the death toll but Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, echoed the UN in saying the ministry’s figures in previous conflicts had been reliable.

The UN Human Rights Office expressed concern that both sides had committed war crimes. “We are concerned about the collective punishment of Gazans in response to the atrocious attacks by Hamas, which also amounted to war crimes,” a spokesperson said in Geneva.

Israel stepped up the public relations battle when it accused Hamas of using the main hospital in Gaza as a shield for its tunnels and operations, raising fears it may become a target.

Hagari showed a news conference photographs, diagrams and audio recordings that he said showed how Hamas was using the hospital system, and Al Shifa hospital in particular, to hide command posts and tunnel entry points.

Hamas official Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of the movement’s political bureau, rebutted the claim and accused Israel of spreading lies as “a prelude to committing a new massacre against our people”.

The IDF has made the claim about Al Shifa and other hospitals before, including in the 2014 conflict. It is not possible to verify details of the latest allegations but there is evidence Hamas has in the past taken advantage of cover provided by civilian objects, including hospitals.

During the 2014 conflict armed men were visible in some Gaza hospitals, while Hamas officials including leaders and security officers were present in Al Shifa. However, it is also clear that during the 2014 conflict and the present war the main buildings of the Shifa hospital complex operated primarily as a civilian healthcare facility, making those buildings a protected civilian location.

In a separate development, hopes of negotiating releases for some of the dual-nationality hostages dimmed after Hamas said it viewed all its hostages as Israelis, whatever additional passports they held, and would not release any without a ceasefire.

Abu Marzouk, a Hamas politburo member who is part of a delegation visiting Moscow, told the Russian state news agency RIA that the group did not view its captives as Russian, French or American. “All those captured, for us, are Israelis.”

Among the hostages are holders of passports from 25 foreign countries, who account for half of the people being held, according to Israeli officials.

The UN general assembly was to vote on Friday on a non-binding resolution proposed by Jordan that called for a “humanitarian truce”. Earlier, leaders of the 27 EU member states unanimously called for “humanitarian corridors and pauses” in the bombing to allow food, water and medical supplies to enter Gaza.

Fears of the crisis spreading across the region deepened after US warplanes bombed two locations in eastern Syria linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in what the Pentagon said was a response to drone and missile attacks by Iranian-backed groups against US bases and personnel in Syria and Iraq.

Late on Friday, the Egyptian military reported that two drones fired from the southern Red Sea had landed in two resorts on the Sinai peninsula, one of them falling on Taba, which sits on the border with Israel. Six people were reported hurt.

Hizan al-Assad, a member of the Iran-backed Houthi rebel forces in Yemen, posted a one-word message on social media reading “Eilat”, in an apparently threatening reference to the nearby Israeli resort city a few miles away.

Last week, US forces shot down three drones launched by the Houthi rebels that had been fired in the direction of Israel.

Hundreds of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank demonstrated on Friday to express solidarity with people in Gaza. Since Gaza erupted, Israeli forces have killed scores and injured and detained hundreds of people in the West Bank.


Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in “Israel intensifies Gaza assault and severs communications across territory”, an article by Julian Borger in Ashkelon, Rory Carroll and Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem and Robert Tait in Washington for the GUARDIAN | Oct. 27, 2023.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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