Hamas Pledges ‘Full Force’ following Israel’s Escalation of Ground Operations in Gaza

ISRAEL/GAZA: Hamas announced on Saturday that its militants in Gaza were prepared to respond with “full force” after Israel expanded its air and ground operations in the Palestinian enclave.

The Gaza-based Palestinian militant group stated that its fighters were engaging with Israeli troops in areas near the border, following Israel’s reports of increased attacks in Gaza.

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By early Saturday morning, a shutdown in internet and phone services—which telecom companies and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society stated was an outcome of Israeli bombardments—had been persisting for over 10 hours.

The Israeli military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, stated during a televised news briefing on Friday evening, “In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight.” This statement raised concerns about the possibility that the long-awaited ground invasion of Gaza was about to begin.

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He stated that Israel’s air force was hitting other infrastructure and Hamas-dug tunnels in large quantities.

Early on Saturday, Hamas released a statement saying, “The Al-Qassam brigades and all the Palestinian resistance forces are completely ready to confront (Israel’s) aggression with full force and frustrate its incursions.”

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“Netanyahu and his defeated army will not be able to achieve any military victory,” the speakers said, alluding to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel.

The armed wing of Hamas stated late on Friday that its militants were engaged in combat with Israeli troops in the central region of Al-Bureij and in the northeastern town of Beit Hanoun in Gaza.

Israeli ground forces had gathered outside Gaza, where Israel had initiated an intense aerial bombardment campaign since an attack on October 7 by hundreds of Hamas gunmen on Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.

Israel claimed that around 1,400 people, primarily civilians, had been killed, and more than 200 were taken hostage, including foreign nationals and individuals with dual Israeli nationality.

Since that time, Palestinian health authorities have reported that Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the deaths of over 7,000 Palestinians.

UN assembly support calls for truce

On Friday, a resolution sponsored by Arab governments demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and demanding assistance access to Gaza as well as the protection of civilians was unanimously approved by the UN General Assembly.

The resolution reflects the mood around the world and has political weight despite not being legally obligatory. With 121 votes in support, 44 abstentions, and 14 votes against—including those from Israel and the US—it was approved to a round of applause.

In New York, late on Friday, a large group of protesters demanding a ceasefire in the conflict caused the closure of Grand Central Terminal, a major transit hub in the city, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The protest was held by a group known as Jewish Voice for Peace.

After Israel announced an escalation in its operations, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby expressed U.S. support for a temporary halt in Israeli military activity in Gaza to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, fuel, and electricity to the civilian population there.

Kirby declined to comment on the ground operation’s expansion. Still, he declared that Washington maintained Israel’s right to self-defence and said, “We’re not drawing red lines for Israel.”

The U.S., he said, backed a limited, localised ceasefire in order to free the more than 200 captives that Hamas had taken from Gaza.

In a conversation with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin “underscored the importance of protecting civilians” during operations in Gaza, the Pentagon announced on Friday.

The Red Crescent Society stated that it had been cut off from both its teams operating in Gaza and its operations room. The government, controlled by Hamas, claimed that rescue teams were not receiving emergency calls.

“Patients, medical staff, and thousands of families taking shelter at Al Shifa hospital and other health facilities,” Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) stated, adding that it has been unable to get in touch with some of its Palestinian colleagues.

UNICEF’s head, Catherine Russell, stated that her organisation was likewise unable to get in touch with its employees in Gaza.

Concerns of a broader conflict in the Middle East have escalated as the U.S. has deployed more military assets to the region, while Israel conducted airstrikes in Gaza and targeted Hamas supporters in Lebanon and Syria.

The infrastructure in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since 2007, has been severely damaged due to Israeli bombings.

Palestinians have reported receiving warnings from the Israeli military to relocate from Gaza’s north to the south to avoid the most intense fighting.

However, the journey south is perilous due to ongoing air strikes, and even southern areas have not been spared from bombings.

Many families have chosen not to flee, fearing the outcome experienced in previous conflicts when Palestinians who vacated their homes and land were unable to return.

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