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HomeworldGaza under blackout as Israel says war 'entered a new phase'

Gaza under blackout as Israel says war 'entered a new phase'

JERUSALEM: Gaza was largely cut off from the outside world on Saturday (Oct 28) as Israel rained more bombs from the air and suggested its long-promised ground offensive against Hamas militants controlling the Palestinian enclave was underway.

Israel said troops sent in on Friday night were still in the field whereas previously it had made only brief sorties during three weeks of bombing to destroy Hamas whom it said killed 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, on Oct 7.

“We have entered a new phase in the war. Last night the ground in Gaza shook. We attacked above ground and below ground,” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said in a video statement, alluding to the network of military tunnels Hamas has built under Gaza.

“The operation will continue until a new order.”

Israel’s military renewed a call for civilians of Gaza City to move south from the north, warning that the area was now a “battlefield”.

“Shelters in northern Gaza and Gaza governorate are not safe,” the army said in leaflets dropped by fighter jets, as it urged residents to “evacuate immediately” to the south.

The army already delivered similar warnings earlier in its campaign, but many who fled south ended up returning to their homes after failing to find refuge from Israeli bombing.

“The impending IDF (Israel Defense Forces) operation is set to neutralise the threat of Hamas with precision and intensity,” military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari earlier said on social media platform X. 

Hamas has pledged to confront Israeli attacks with “full force”.

Overnight, Israel conducted one of the most intense nights of strikes in response to the Oct 7 Hamas attacks. “Hundreds of buildings and houses were completely destroyed and thousands of other homes were damaged,” said Gaza Civil Defence spokesman Mahmud Bassal.

Gaza has been under an almost complete communications blackout since Friday evening with phone and internet services cut, which the Palestinian Red Crescent blamed on Israel.

Hagari said Israel would allow trucks with food, water and medicine to enter Gaza, indicating that bombing might pause, at least in the area of its border with Egypt where some aid has trickled in.

The armed wing of Hamas, the al-Qassam brigades, said early on Saturday its fighters were clashing with Israeli troops in Gaza’s northeastern town of Beit Hanoun and in the central area of Al-Bureij.

“Al-Qassam Brigades and all Palestinian resistance forces are fully prepared to confront the aggression with full force and thwart the incursions,” it said.

The United States and other Western countries have offered strong support to Israel but have urged it to hold off on a ground offensive for fear that high casualties among Palestinians would fuel wider conflict.

Hamas is backed by Iran, which also supports militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. US troops have come under fire from Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. Washington has been moving more military assets to the region.

The Israeli military reported a new exchange of fire on the border with Lebanon on Saturday, the latest in what have been the most serious clashes on the border since 2006. Israel’s neighbour Egypt said drones fell on the country on Friday.

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