The step likely moves Israel closer to the widely expected, larger ground invasion of Gaza.
An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer is deployed at a position along the border with the Gaza Strip near Sderot in southern Israel, Oct. 27, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Israel’s military is intensifying its ground operations in Gaza in another step that likely moves the country closer to its widely expected, larger ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory.
An Israeli military spokesman on Friday said ground forces were “expanding” their activities in Gaza, distinguishing the uptick from a series of ground raids that Israeli forces have conducted.
“Hundreds of thousands of IDF soldiers are all around the borders of the state – in the air, ground and the sea – to protect the state,” spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said.
The news came after Israel intensified its air strikes on Gaza earlier Friday along with two ground raids in as many days in the country.
It’s been more than two weeks since Israel’s military directed the evacuation of northern Gaza within 24 hours. In the days since, it has repeatedly warned that a wider ground invasion is coming.
War in Israel and Gaza
“We have already killed thousands of terrorists, and this is only the beginning,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as recently as Wednesday. “Simultaneously, we are preparing for a ground invasion. I will not elaborate on when, how or how many. I will also not elaborate on the various calculations we are making, which the public is mostly unaware of and that is how things should be.”
The likely reasons behind the delay are multifaceted, spanning from pressure to recover hostages taken by Hamas to increased risk of a more widespread war if an invasion does happen.
As the days pass on, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens as food and clean water sources dwindle. Internet and phone services in Gaza appeared to be down on Friday.
The U.S. has said it would support a “humanitarian pause” to allow for hostages to potentially leave the country and for aid to come in. As of Friday, more than 80 aid trucks have entered Gaza, though humanitarian groups say more supplies are desperately needed.
The White House on Thursday declined to comment on what Israel’s military is doing on the ground in Gaza.
“We have, of course, certainly seen Israel undertake varied operations on the ground in the last couple of days,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “But again, we’re not going to get into the habit of chiming in from the sidelines here on what they’re trying to do on the ground.”