Should we see the beginnings of the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza? The IDF announced Thursday morning that operations had been carried out in the narrow strip of Palestinian land with special forces and for the first time tanks. “During the night, the army carried out a targeted raid with Merkava tanks in the northern Gaza Strip, as part of its preparations for the next stages of the fight,” the general staff said simply.
Black and white images released by the IDF show armored vehicles and bulldozers passing through a protective fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. During this incursion, the military “operated to prepare the battlefield.” In a statement, the IDF said it had killed Shadi Barud, the deputy head of Hamas's intelligence directorate, suspected of having organized the October 7 attack.
Considered and even announced on numerous occasions, the large-scale ground attack aimed at “eliminating the military potential of Hamas” was still awaited on the 20th day of the war against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, repeated the day before, as often since October 7 and the massacre of some 1,400 civilians committed in Israel - including 35 French according to a new report from the Quai d'Orsay - his desire to launch his troops en masse in the Hamas stronghold. This assault arouses the less and less hidden reluctance of the international community, including among the allies of the Hebrew State.
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The United States like Europe fear a significant number of civilian victims in this small territory where some 2.4 million inhabitants are crammed together. The air raids carried out in Gaza in retaliation since October 7 have already left 7,028 dead, including 2,913 children and 18,484 injured, according to a report published Thursday by Hamas, which rules the enclave with an iron fist.
Emmanuel Macron thus judged on Wednesday, in Cairo, that such an operation, if it were to be “massive”, would be an “error”. His Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, called for avoiding a “land invasion of Gaza”. Even in the United States, Joe Biden explained on Wednesday that Israel, while having “the right” to defend itself, must do its possible “to protect innocent civilians”.
Washington, like Brussels, is concerned about the fate of some 224 hostages taken to Gaza by Hamas terrorists, including a number of dual nationals. The Islamist movement “estimated” Thursday, on Telegram, that “nearly fifty” hostages had been killed by Israeli strikes. Only four women were released.
Westerners are also increasingly worried about the immense humanitarian crisis that is looming. Besieged for almost three weeks, the landlocked territory, which depends on the outside for its vital needs, lacks everything. Only a few dozen humanitarian aid trucks have entered Gaza since October 21 via Egypt when the UN estimates that around a hundred would be needed daily.
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The emergency is particularly acute for fuel, which Israel refuses, essential for running generators in hospitals and pumping and purifying water. According to Mohammed Abou Selmeya, the director of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, "ten hospitals are already out of service" and "more than 90% of medicines and products are exhausted." Some 600,000 Palestinians, according to the UN, have left the north of the Gaza Strip towards the south since October 13 when the Israeli army ordered civilians to leave “for their own safety”.
On Thursday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad al-Maliki, faced the results and the shortcomings, accused Israel of waging a “war of revenge” and demanded a cease-fire. The proposal is far from unanimous. For the United States, a ceasefire “at this stage would only benefit Hamas.” The White House, no doubt embarrassed, instead suggests “pauses” to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. The debate around a ceasefire is also tearing apart the European Union, whose 27 members met at a summit Thursday in Brussels. The chances of agreement on a joint decision are low when the EU is traditionally divided between its most pro-Palestinian members, such as Ireland and Spain, and the most fervent defenders of Israel, such as Germany and Israel. 'Austria.
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The solution will no longer come from the UN. Secretary General Antonio Guterres certainly called on Tuesday for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” and condemned the “clear violations of humanitarian law” in the Palestinian territory, provoking anger and calls for Israel's resignation. But the Security Council is powerfully divided as shown on Wednesday by the rejection of two competing draft American resolutions pleading for “humanitarian pauses” and Russian, demanding a “humanitarian ceasefire” while castigating the “abominable attacks of Hamas.” On Thursday, Russian diplomacy announced the presence in Moscow of representatives of Hamas and Iran, sponsor of the terrorist group, for discussions, a first since the start of the conflict.