Israeli forces are preparing for a potential ground assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in response to an unprecedented attack on Israeli territory, while Iran issues warnings of “far-reaching consequences” if Israel’s bombardment continues unchecked.
Israel has vowed to retaliate against the militant group Hamas following an assault by its fighters on Israeli towns eight days ago. In that attack, Hamas militants targeted men, women, and children and took hostages in the worst act of violence against civilians in the country’s history.
Over 1,300 people lost their lives in the sudden onslaught, which shook the nation with disturbing mobile phone videos and reports of atrocities from medical and emergency services in the affected areas.
In response, Israel initiated the most intense bombardment ever witnessed in Gaza, subjecting the enclave, home to 2.3 million Palestinians, to a total siege and causing extensive infrastructure damage.
As of the early hours of Sunday, a ground assault had not yet commenced.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, aiming to work with regional allies to prevent the conflict from escalating further and secure the release of hostages.
Gaza authorities reported that over 2,300 people, including a quarter of them children, had been killed, and nearly 10,000 were wounded. Rescue workers were urgently searching for survivors of nighttime air raids, and one million people were reported to have fled their homes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government also issued a warning to the militant group Hezbollah, which borders Israel to the north, cautioning against starting a war on a second front and threatening the “destruction of Lebanon” if it did.
On Sunday, a senior Israeli official accused Iran of attempting to open a second front by deploying weapons through Syria, responding to a scenario raised on social media. Joshua Zarka, head of strategic affairs for Israel’s foreign ministry, indicated that the Iranians were indeed pursuing this course.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations warned late on Saturday that if Israel’s “war crimes and genocide” were not halted immediately, “the situation could spiral out of control” and have far-reaching consequences. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister in Qatar on Saturday, discussed the group’s attack in Israel and agreed to continue cooperation to achieve its goals, as stated in a Hamas press release.
The Israeli military reported that in an airstrike in Khan Younis, it had killed a commander of Hamas’ elite Nukhba Force, who had led the October 7 attack on the two Israeli border villages of Nirim and Nir Oz.
U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders have cautioned against further escalation of the conflict, with international organizations and aid groups urging restraint and calling on Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
In New York, Russia has asked the U.N. Security Council to vote on a draft resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict on Monday, calling for a humanitarian ceasefire and condemning violence against civilians and acts of terrorism.
As the situation unfolds, warnings against a broader conflict persist, and calls for humanitarian aid continue. The United States is working to open the crossing into Egypt to allow some people to leave Gaza. Israel claims its evacuation order is a humanitarian gesture, while the United Nations maintains that safely moving such a large number of people within Gaza would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
Simultaneously, violence at Israel’s northern border with Lebanon has escalated, raising concerns about the potential spread of war to another front. Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for firing at Israeli outposts in the disputed Shebaa Farms area. Israel reported that five border villages were under lockdown due to a suspected incursion from Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, warned Hezbollah to stay out of the fighting, emphasizing Israel’s efforts to avoid being drawn into a two-front war.