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Israeli Ground Operation Pushes Deeper into Gaza - Wall Street Journal - 29.10.23

Under pressure from U.S., Israel restores communications to the strip by Stephen Kalin, Chao Deng and Omar Abdel-Baqui.


Israeli soldiers pushed at least 2 miles deep into the densely populated Gaza Strip Sunday in moves that analysts said seemed designed to trap Hamas in the enclave’s north, as the U.S. pressured Israel to restore communications in the territory.


Soldiers and tanks appeared to be taking up positions deep inside Gaza on Sunday, two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was entering a new phase of the war. Tanks fired from Gaza’s Mediterranean beaches, and soldiers moved across open and hilly ground, according to video the military released.


The latest actions suggest a war that is likely to last a long time, as Israel prepares to move deliberately in stages into Gaza territory. At the same time, Israel faces pressure from the U.S. and other western countries to minimize civilian casualties, which are mounting.


Some evidence of Israel responding to U.S. pressure could be seen Sunday morning, when Israeli authorities restored internet and phone communications after implementing a near complete communications blackout on Friday night. Washington convinced Israel that communications needed to be turned back to allow the United Nations, World Health Organization and other aid groups to coordinate with their staff in Gaza, a senior U.S. government official said.


In a call Sunday with Netanyahu, President Biden pushed for increasing the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza and said that protection of civilians is a priority. “I reiterated that Israel has every right to defend its citizens from terrorism and a responsibility to do so in a manner consistent with international humanitarian law which prioritizes the protection of civilians,” Biden wrote on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.


In recent days, the White House has also embraced the idea of humanitarian pauses, which stops short of a cease-fire. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that the U.S. is prepared to support humanitarian pauses so that hostages held by Hamas can be released safely.


“A humanitarian pause would be a good thing to get hostages out,” Sullivan said on

To collect the active probing signal, Georgia Institute of Technology's Internet Outage Detection and Analysis system continuously pings networks known to be at a certain geographic location.


Most networks are designed to automatically respond to pings by echoing them back to the sender. If networks stop responding to pings, the active probing signal will drop and this may indicate a disruption in connectivity. Data is in local time. Source: IODA


The Israeli ground invasion is expected to focus initially on Gaza City, where much of Hamas’s infrastructure and weaponry is believed to be located, said Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst on Israel-Palestine at the International Crisis Group. Israel’s leaders have said the main war aim is the destruction of Hamas as the ruler of Gaza, where it came to power 17 years ago.


Israeli forces have to go in deep to access the group’s extensive underground tunnel network, she said. “There already is and will likely be a long-term ground invasion,” she added, but what it can realistically achieve “is still in question and constantly evolving.”


Israel’s military has been silent about its strategy and tactics but a growing part of the country’s security establishment has called for what Naftali Bennett, the former Israeli prime minister, called “strategic patience.” On Sunday, Bennett said the army should encircle Hamas in Gaza City and lay a long-term siege, instead of quickly sending forces into urban combat.


“Make the passing time work in our favor,” he said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “We have all the time in the world.”


Israel called for urgent evacuation in Northern Gaza on Sunday, as their ground forces moved deeper into the enclave. The Red Crescent Society, helping displaced people in Gaza City’s al-Quds hospital, said Israel’s demand is impossible to meet.


A siege in the north could ensnare tens of thousands of civilians who haven’t fled to the south. Already, Israel has largely cut off food, water, fuel and electricity for the two million residents of the territory. Israeli leaders have said it won’t be a short campaign.


The Israeli military advances occurred on the same day that Netanyahu apologized for a social-media post blaming Israeli intelligence agencies for failing to warn him of plans for the Oct. 7 attacks. He deleted the post after lawmakers and journalists condemned him for it.


As the north Gaza Strip increasingly turns into a battlefield, Israel has urged Palestinian civilians to move south. But Palestinian and international observers have said that frequent airstrikes including in the south, destroyed infrastructure and dwindling supplies are hindering movement within Gaza and taking a heavy toll on noncombatants, including children.


Thousands broke into U.N. food warehouses in central and southern Gaza, the organization said Sunday, taking wheat flour and other basics such as hygiene supplies. The raided facilities included a store holding supplies from aid trucks that had recently arrived from Egypt, the U.N. said.


“This is a worrying sign that civil order is starting to break down after three weeks of war and a tight siege on Gaza. People are scared, frustrated and desperate,” said Thomas White, a director at the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian refugees.


Just over 80 trucks have brought supplies into Gaza since the conflict broke out earlier this month, which the U.N. has warned is a fraction of the enclave’s needs. Israel said Sunday that aid deliveries to Gaza’s south would expand. A senior U.S. government official said the United Nations could handle as many as around 100 trucks carrying food and medical supplies each day, and that Israel had agreed to accelerate aid.


Rami Hijjo, a former humanitarian worker in Gaza and father of three, said people were selling their belongings and even fighting to get water. He said he couldn’t find bread on Sunday. He said he was planning to go to the bakery on Monday at 5 a.m. to stand in line and get one pack of bread that will last him for a day. On other days, he will try to buy water.


A two-day communications blackout ended on Sunday, with internet and phone services gradually restored, according to service providers and digital monitoring groups.


A senior U.S. official said Israel had taken steps to shut down Gaza’s phone and internet communications, but the U.S. successfully convinced Israel to reverse those measures.

Israel’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.


The telecommunications blackout left people in Gaza unable to reach family or the outside world and made it harder for emergency services to operate, humanitarian groups said.


Abdalrahim Abuwarda, a 30-year-old master’s student at the University of Wyoming, was able to speak with his family on Sunday after some communications were restored in Gaza.

“I am so relieved to know that they are alive,” Abuwarda said. “I was worried sick about them.”


Some of his family has stayed put in northern Gaza, while his wife and children are sheltering now with relatives in the southern town of Khan Younis. “The situation in the north is more terrible than ever,” Abuwarda said.


The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that it had been told by the Israeli military to evacuate Gaza’s al-Quds hospital, a demand it said was impossible to meet. Red Crescent spokesman Raed al-Nims said that there were patients on life-support machines as well as 12,000-14,000 displaced people taking refuge there.


“People are still there, and they will not leave. They have no place to go, as there is no safe place. At least, this is the safest place for them,” said al-Nims.


The Red Crescent Society later said Israel conducted airstrikes near al-Quds Hospital, forcing patients, medical staff and displaced people to evacuate the hospital and causing significant damage to some departments.


The Israeli military declined to comment on al-Quds hospital. It said separately that it is planning to increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza this week, and that it is preparing a zone in the southern region of Khan Younis that it said could accommodate hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by military operations. Several residents have said they don’t trust the Israeli military’s promises of a safe zone after it told people to relocate from the north of Gaza to the south for their safety and then bombed southern areas.


The U.N. opposes the forcible movement of civilian populations, and aid groups have raised concerns about humanitarian relief being used to encourage mass displacement.


The Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry has said that more than 8,000 people, a majority of whom are women and children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting began.


The U.S. and Israel acknowledge that thousands of people have been killed in Gaza, but have expressed doubts about the accuracy of Hamas numbers on civilian casualties. Some U.N. experts have said that the actual toll could be higher because the numbers don’t account for bodies still under the rubble.


Israel has mobilized hundreds of thousands of reservists following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas that left more than 1,400 people dead.



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Israeli Ground Operation Pushes Deeper into Gaza - Wall Street Journal - 29.10.23
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Saeed Shah, Suha Ma’ayeh, Menna Farouk, Austen Hufford and James T. Areddy contributed to this article.


Write to Stephen Kalin at stephen.kalin@wsj.com, Chao Deng at chao.deng@wsj.com and Omar Abdel-Baqui at omar.abdel-baqui@wsj.com


Appeared in the October 30, 2023, print edition as 'Israel Pushes Deeper Into Gaza Amid U.S. Pressure for a Pause'.



An image released by the Israeli military shows troops on a beach in an undisclosed location. Photo: Israel Defense Forces.



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