As Israeli airstrikes pounded Gaza Strip locations Thursday, including southern areas Israel told Palestinians to take refuge in, fears continued to rise among the over 2 million trapped in the territory that nowhere was safe. Israel’s defense minister told ground troops to be ready to enter Gaza, although he did not say when the invasion would begin.
Israeli military has attacked Gaza relentlessly in retaliation for the Hamas rampage in Israel almost two weeks ago. After Israel told Palestinians to evacuate the north of Gaza and flee south, strikes extended across the territory as Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border on Thursday and urged forces to “get organized, be ready” for an order to move in. Israel massed thousands of troops along the border.
“Whoever sees Gaza from afar now will see it from the inside,” said Gallant. “I promise you.”
The Gaza Health Ministry said 3,785 people have died in Gaza since the war started. Almost 12,500 others were injured, with another 1,3000 people buried under the rubble.
Over 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, with around 200 others abducted. The Israeli military said it had notified the families of 203 captives Thursday.
More than 1 million Palestinians, or around half of Gaza’s population, have fled homes in Gaza City and other northern territories since Israel told them to evacuate.
The deal to get aid to Gaza remained fragile. Israel said the supplies could only go to civilians in the south of Gaza, and it would “thwart” any diversions by Hamas. President Joe Biden said deliveries “will end” if Hamas takes any aid.
Aid deliveries are set to start on Friday
Officials in the U.S. said the first deliveries likely happen Friday at the earliest, with an initial delivery group of 20 trucks.
When asked if foreigners and dual nationals who seek to leave would be allowed out of Gaza, Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Foreign Minister, said, “As long as the crossing is operating normally and the (crossing) facility has been repaired.”
Israel had said previously that it would let nothing into Gaza until Hamas freed the hostages taken from Israel. Relatives of some captives were furious at the announcement.
“Children, infants, women, soldiers, men, and elderly, some with serious illnesses, wounded and shot, are held underground like animals,” the Hostage and Missing Families Forum said in a statement. But “the Israeli government pamper the murderers and kidnappers.”
Thursday, the Israeli military reported it killed a top Palestinian militant in Rafah and hit hundreds of targets across Gaza, including intelligence infrastructure, command centers, and militant tunnel shafts. It also said it hit dozens of mortar-launching posts. Palestinians have launched rocket barrages at Israel since the fighting started.