The war against Hamas entered a new stage on Saturday and will be “long and difficult”, warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, three weeks after the start of hostilities, triggered by the deadliest attack in the history of 'Israel.
The leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinouar, spoke on Saturday evening for the first time since October 7 to say he was ready to conclude an exchange of hostages “immediately” that the Palestinian Islamist movement is holding in the Gaza Strip — 230 according to Israel — against “all Palestinian prisoners” incarcerated by Israel.
Since Friday evening, the Israeli army has been operating on the ground with soldiers and armored vehicles, while intensifying its bombing of the Gaza Strip launched after the October 7 attack since which 1,400 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians, according to local authorities.
Hamas, which controls Gaza, claims that 8,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in these bombings, the heaviest toll for this small territory since the Israeli withdrawal of the Palestinian territory in 2005.
Authorities in Gaza said a “large number” of people were killed overnight in airstrikes on two refugee camps in the north of the enclave.
Earlier, the command Israeli authorities had warned residents of the towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon, in southern Israel, against missile and rocket attacks, where emergency services reported no casualties.
< p>On the other hand, three people were injured during the day after salvos of rockets fired from Gaza.
The UN fears a humanitarian catastrophe in this 360 m² territory. Its Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, deplored the “unprecedented escalation of bombings” which “compromise humanitarian objectives”, according to him, calling once again for an immediate ceasefire.
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The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, found it “unacceptable that civilians have no safe place to go in Gaza amid massive bombings”, saying that “the world should not tolerate” what is happening in Gaza.
Approximately 2.4 million people live crowded together in Gaza, lacking water, food, electricity, and since Friday, communications and the Internet.
In total, 84 trucks of humanitarian aid were able to arrive via Egypt, according to the UN, but at least a hundred are needed per day.
“A field of battle”
“The war in the Gaza Strip will be long and difficult and we are ready for it,” Netanyahu told a news conference in Tel Aviv, adding that his army “ will destroy the enemy on land and underground.”
A reference to the gigantic network of tunnels of hundreds of kilometers from where, according to the military, Hamas directs its operations.
Now, “the second stage of the war is underway, the objective of which is clear: to destroy the military capabilities and leadership of Hamas; bring the hostages home,” Netanyahu said after meeting with the families of the 230 people held captive in the Gaza Strip, according to the authorities' latest count.
The Israeli military on Saturday repeated its call for residents of northern Gaza to “immediately leave” to the south, saying it now considers that city and its region a “battlefield.”
According to the spokesperson for Civil Defense in Gaza, Mahmoud Bassal, “hundreds of buildings and houses were completely destroyed” during the day.
In the Chati refugee camp, in the outskirts of Gaza City, the bombings caused significant damage.
“What happened in Chati is worse than an earthquake,” resident Alaa Mahdi, 54, told AFP. “It was bombing everywhere, the navy, the artillery and the planes. »
In Gaza City, “in the streets, people have become lifeless bodies walking,” Jihad Mahdi, a resident, described to AFP.
The Israeli army reported “several Hamas terrorists killed” including a leader “having taken part in the organization of the October 7 massacre” which deeply traumatized Israeli society.
At the same time, salvos of rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel during the day, wounding three people, according to doctors.
After “a night of immense anguish” due to the intense bombing, the families of the hostages were finally received by Mr. Netanyahu on Saturday.
Only four female hostages have been released to date. Hamas, which had threatened to execute hostages, estimates the number of them killed in the bombings at “nearly 50”.
“We are ready to immediately conclude an exchange to release all the prisoners in the Zionist enemy's prisons in exchange for all the hostages,” Hamas leader in Gaza Sinouar said in a statement.
< p>The Israeli prime minister told the hostages' families that he would explore “all options” to have them released.
Leaving the meeting, Ifat Kalderon, whose cousin Ofer Kalderon is believed to be detained in Gaza with members of her family, told AFP that she supported this type of exchange.
The bombings on Gaza coincided with a communications and internet outage in Gaza.
NGOs and agencies of the UN officials said they had lost contact with their teams in Gaza.
Humanitarian operations and hospital activity “cannot continue without communications,” said Lynn Hastings, a UN official. .
On October 9, Israel imposed a “total siege” on Gaza, cutting off water, electricity and food supplies, after the Palestinian territory had already been under an Israeli land, air and sea blockade for more than 16 years.< /p>
“Many more” people will “soon die” due to the siege, said the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini.
Some surgical operations are carried out without completely putting patients to sleep due to the shortage of anesthetic products, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned on Saturday.
Léo Cans, MSF head of mission in Jerusalem in charge of the territories Palestinians, recounted the operation this week of “a 10-year-old child, who had to amputate half of his left foot under half-sedation, on the hospital floor in the corridor because all the operating theaters were full.”
Israel wants to “wipe out” the Islamist movement, in retaliation for the October 7 attack. That day, in the middle of Shabbat, the weekly Jewish rest, hundreds of Hamas fighters infiltrated from Gaza onto Israeli soil, where they carried out the deadliest attack in Israeli history.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Israel as a “war criminal”, who immediately announced that he would recall his diplomats from Turkey in order to “reassess relations” between the two countries.
Thousands of people demonstrated abroad, in London and Paris in support of the Palestinians.
Defeating Hamas is an “existential challenge” for Israel, said the Israeli Prime Minister, taking back to Tehran. “I think that 90% of Hamas's military budget comes from Iran,” he accused.
The international community fears a regional conflagration, while Iran, support of Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah, has issued warnings to the United States, a close ally of Israel.
Tension is also very high in the West Bank occupied since 1967, where more than 100 Palestinians have been killed by soldiers or Israeli settlers since October 7.
On Israel's northern border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire are almost daily between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, the headquarters of the peacekeepers of the UN in southern Lebanon was hit by a shell on Saturday, without causing any casualties. A peacekeeper was lightly injured near Hula by bombings in southern Lebanon, according to UNIFIL.