The Israeli army, backed by fighter jets and drones, has carried out a second limited ground raid into Gaza in as many days and struck targets on the outskirts of Gaza City, according to its military, as it prepares for a widely expected ground invasion.
The Israeli military said on Friday that ground forces entered Gaza overnight and struck dozens of Hamas targets during its raid in the Shujaiya area.
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It said aircraft and artillery bombed targets in the neighbourhood on the outskirts of Gaza City, and that its soldiers exited the territory after several hours without suffering any casualties.
“The raid began yesterday in broad daylight … it ended successfully in the hours of this morning,” the Israeli army’s spokesperson said.
Black-and-white footage released by the Israeli army showed a column of armoured vehicles as a thick cloud of dust billowed into the sky after the strikes.
Later on Friday, Hamas’s military wing said Israeli forces at dawn attempted to carry out a landing operation on the Rafah beach in southern Gaza Strip.
“The attempt was discovered by our fighters, and they confronted it and clashed with the enemy. This required the intervention of the Zionist [Israeli] Air Force, which saved the force, so it fled towards the sea, leaving behind a quantity of ammunition,” the Qassam Brigades said in a Telegram post.
The Israeli army had conducted another ground operation using tanks and infantry overnight on Thursday in the northern part of the Palestinian territory; it said its ground forces battled fighters and struck antitank missile firing positions in an operation that lasted hours.
Israeli military officials, on several occasions, have confirmed the army’s readiness to conduct a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, but are awaiting a green light from the Israeli political leadership.
At the same time, Israel continues its relentless bombardment of Gaza, which has killed more than 7,000 Palestinians in three weeks. The strikes began following a Hamas attack inside Israel on October 7, in which more than 1,400 people were killed.
The air raids have flattened entire neighbourhoods, causing a level of death and destruction unseen in the last four wars between Israel and Hamas.
More than a million people have fled their homes in northern Gaza, with many heeding Israeli orders to evacuate to the south, despite continuing Israeli attacks across the sealed-off territory.
The damage to Gaza was shown in satellite photos of several locations taken before the war and again in recent days.
Entire rows of residential buildings simply disappear in the photos, reduced to smears of dust and rubble.
A complex of 13 high-rises by the sea was pounded to dust near Gaza City’s al-Shati refugee camp, leaving only a few tottering bits of facade.
Just down the street, hardly anything remained in what had been a neighbourhood of low-built homes on winding lanes, according to the photos by Maxar Technologies.
Benny Gantz, a retired general and member of Israel’s war cabinet, said on Thursday that any possible ground offensive would be only “one stage in a long-term process that includes security, political and social aspects that will take years”.
“The campaign will soon ramp up with greater force,” he added.
The humanitarian crisis caused by the war and the Israeli siege, and concern for the fate of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, has sparked protests across the region, and more demonstrations were expected later on Friday after weekly Muslim prayers.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies