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17 Oct, 2023 15:31

Israel issues update on possible Gaza ground offensive

The next stages of the operation against the Palestinian enclave might be “different” from what’s expected, the military has said
Israel issues update on possible Gaza ground offensive

The widely expected Israeli ground offensive in Gaza might not happen, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht suggested on Tuesday. The country’s military is preparing for the next phase of its operation, although it will not reveal what this involves, he added.

“We are preparing for the next stages of war. We haven’t said what they will be,” Hecht told journalists at a briefing. “Everybody’s talking about the ground offensive. It might be something different,” he added, without elaborating.

The remarks come amid the escalation between Israeli forces and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, which staged a surprise attack on Israel on October 7.

Palestinian militants launched thousands of rockets at Israeli territory and briefly overran settlements bordering Gaza. The initial attack and follow-up clashes between Hamas and the IDF have claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to the authorities.

West Jerusalem has responded with a massive bombing campaign against Gaza, resulting in over 2,800 deaths in the enclave, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel has called up around 360,000 reservists as part of a mobilization drive, and has deployed significant forces to the southern border with Gaza, including tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces.

Israel has been touting a potential ground operation in Gaza since the early stages of the escalation. The military said last Saturday that it was ready to “expand the offensive,” including through an “extensive ground operation.”

The potential operation has sparked widespread concern. The African Union and the Arab League both urged Israel to cease hostilities on Monday, warning that a ground offensive in the enclave could lead to an “unprecedented genocide.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that the potential operation would be a “difficult” issue “fraught with serious consequences for all sides.” The offensive could also result in civilian casualties that would be “absolutely unacceptable,” he added.

The US, a key Israeli ally, has also cautioned against launching a ground campaign. US President Joe Biden said on Monday that taking out the “extremists” would be a “necessary requirement” to guarantee the security of the Jewish state, but warned that an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake.”

The White House has confirmed that Biden will travel to Israel and Jordan on Wednesday. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has claimed that an Israeli offensive could be launched after that visit.