Israel launched “a comprehensive attack” on the Gaza Strip overnight on Wednesday, the country’s air force confirmed – hours after the defense minister vowed to “wipe Hamas off the face of the earth.”
For the past five days, Israeli warplanes have pounded the blockaded strip with an intensity never before experienced by its war-weary residents.
The Israeli Air Force shared images of a building in Gaza that they said belonged to Hamas being destroyed from the air.
They insist they are attacking Hamas targets in the enclave and trying to avoid civilian casualties: critics say this is impossible in the densely populated area.
In the early hours of Thursday, the air force tweeted: “The IDF is now launching a comprehensive attack on many centers of the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”
An IDF soldier covers his ears on Wednesday as a grenade is fired towards Gaza
An Israeli army flare lights up the sky above the northern Gaza Strip on Friday
A senior air force officer, Brigadier General. General Omer Tishler said on Wednesday that the strikes were of “unprecedented proportions”.
He said Israel has focused its efforts on attacking Hamas officials and will deter them from ever attacking Israel again.
Hamas launched salvos of rockets when the attack began on Saturday and has continued to fire rockets at Israeli cities including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over the past five days.
The violence has killed 1,200 Israelis – many of them at a music festival or in small farming and artistic communities near the Gaza Strip.
Tishler, the Israeli Air Force chief of staff, said: “There is an enemy here firing rockets and attacking a civilian population. We will never allow that again.’
Terror groups have fired more than 5,000 rockets into Israel since Saturday, the IDF said.
Tishler said the IAF did not target civilians in the Gaza Strip, but that the strikes were no longer “surgical.
‘We don’t behave like the other side, we don’t attack the civilian population. Behind every attack there is a target,” he said.
‘We act accurately and professionally, but not surgically. I’m not talking about a few, tens or hundreds (of strikes). We are talking about thousands of rounds of ammunition.”
The IDF has carried out attacks on at least 2,687 targets in the Gaza Strip since Saturday, according to military data obtained Wednesday morning by The times of Israel.
In just one hour overnight on Tuesday, 250 strikes were launched.
Nearly half of the attacks (1,329) targeted multi-story buildings containing Hamas assets, including war rooms where the terror group manages the fight against Israel, the newspaper reported.
Rockets fired from Gaza City (R) were intercepted on Tuesday by Israel’s Iron Dome defense missile system (L).
Smoke rises during Israeli attacks on Gaza City on Tuesday
Jonathan Conricus, a spokesman for the IDF, is seen giving an update in the early hours of Thursday
Gaza City’s at-Tuffah district, described as a “nest” of terrorists, has been repeatedly targeted, as has the Beit Hanoun district in the northern Gaza Strip.
Dozens of fighter jets carried out the attacks on the targets in the north – including two bank branches used by Hamas, an underground tunnel, several war rooms and other military installations, the IDF said.
The attack is widely believed to pave the way for a ground invasion.
An Egyptian official said this The times of Israel on Tuesday, Cairo was informed by Israel that it is preparing for a months-long ground campaign in Gaza.
Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman, said in the early hours of Thursday that 300,000 troops were on the Gaza border, “making preparations for the next phase.”
Among the 300,000 were regular forces and reservists: Israel has mobilized its largest contingent of reservists in its history.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defense Minister, declared on Wednesday evening that the country is determined to “wipe Hamas off the face of the earth.”
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, vowed to “crush and destroy” Hamas in the same press conference.
“Every Hamas member is a dead man,” he said in a televised speech.
Displaced Palestinians are pictured on Wednesday following intensive Israeli raids in the al-Karama district of northwestern Gaza
A boy walks past buildings destroyed during Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Wednesday
Overthrowing Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, would likely require a reoccupation of Gaza, at least temporarily.
Even then, Hamas has a long history of operating as an underground insurgency in Israeli-controlled areas.
The situation in Gaza has long been dire, but Israel’s response to Hamas’ attacks has only worsened conditions.
There is no clean water and no electricity: the area’s only power station ran out of fuel on Wednesday, leaving only generators that would not last long. Aid organizations are calling for civilians to be allowed to leave and warning of a serious humanitarian situation.
Israel on Monday halted the access of food, water, fuel and medicine to the territory.
The only remaining border crossing from Egypt was shut down on Tuesday after airstrikes took place nearby.
The risk of the war spreading became clear on Wednesday after the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military position, claiming to have killed and wounded troops.
The Israeli military confirmed the attack but did not comment on possible casualties.
The Israeli army shelled the area in southern Lebanon where the attack was launched.
Joe Biden called Saturday’s Hamas attack “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.”
US President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, makes remarks after a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“This attack was a campaign of sheer brutality, not just hatred, but sheer cruelty against the Jewish people,” Biden said during a meeting with Jewish community leaders at the White House.
On Tuesday he warned other countries and armed groups against joining the war.
The US is already transporting ammunition and military equipment to Israel and has sent a strike group to the eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent.
At least 22 Americans are among the dead, and several are believed to be among the 150 missing who may be being held as hostages.
Hamas has threatened to publicly execute them if Israel continues to attack Gaza.
Biden said he had one word for any country considering taking advantage of the chaos: “Don’t.”
He has vowed that America will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.
The country is facing unrest on all sides.
In the West Bank, Israeli settlers attacked a village south of Nablus on Wednesday, opening fire on Palestinians and killing three, the territory’s health ministry said.
More than twenty Palestinians have been killed in fighting in the West Bank since the weekend.