‘Only the start’: Israeli troops pour into Gaza after intense bombing

Israel's army has thrown and iron ring around Gaza City.

Israel's army has thrown and iron ring around Gaza City. Photo: Getty

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Gaza is now a “battlefield” as his army entered the besieged Palestinian territory for what he said would be a “long and difficult war”.

After weeks of promising a major ground offensive, Netanyahu confirmed on Sunday morning (AEDT) that Israeli soldiers and commanders “are now in the Gaza Strip, they are deployed all over”.

He said Israel was targeting the militant group Hamas “overground and underground” as part of Israel’s “second war of independence”.

“This is the second stage of the war whose goals are clear – to destroy Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and to bring the hostages home,” Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv.

“We are only at the start. We will win. We will prevail.

“We will fight and we will not surrender. We will not withdraw.”

Before storming the enclave, Israel rained bombs on Gaza in the most intense bombardment of the offensive.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the escalation was “unprecedented” and again pleaded for a humanitarian pause.

“I was encouraged in the last days by what seemed to be a growing consensus in the international community, including the countries supporting Israel, for the need of at least a humanitarian pause in the fighting to facilitate the release of hostages in Gaza, the evacuation of third country nationals and the necessary massive scale up of the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza,” Guterres said in a statement.

“Regrettably, instead of the pause, I was surprised by an unprecedented escalation of the bombardments and their devastating impacts, undermining the referred humanitarian objectives.”

Cut off for the world

Israeli soldiers had been patrolling the border of Gaza ahead of a ground offensive.

Israel’s military renewed a call for civilians to move south from the north where it says Hamas is hiding under civilian buildings. Palestinians say nowhere is safe.

Gaza has been under an almost complete communications blackout since Friday evening (local time), which the Palestinian Red Crescent blamed on Israel.

Military spokesperson Daniel 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.

Aid agencies say a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding for Gaza’s 2.3 million people who are under a total Israeli blockade. Health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave said 7650 Palestinians, also mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel’s bombardment began.

The World Health Organisation said on Friday that 40 per cent of the dead in Gaza were children.

A medical worker rushes a child  for treatment amid the rubble of Gaza City. Photo: Getty

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the blackout was blocking ambulances and evacuations of patients and denying people safe shelter.

He and other aid agencies said they could not contact their staff, but a representative from the International Committees of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Crescent in Gaza got an audio message out.

William Schomburg said medics were working around the clock while also dealing with personal tragedies.

“I spoke to one doctor who had lost his brother and cousin the night before,” he told the BBC in a clip the ICRC posted on X.

‘No electricity, nothing’

The few journalists who made contact with the outside world also said the situation was the worst it had been.

“If you are dying, you can’t ring up the ambulance service. If you are struck, whatever happens, you can’t communicate with anyone,” Plestia Alaqad said in a video.

Drones and planes buzzed in the background.

“There is no internet, no network, no service, no fuel to move around by car, no electricity, nothing,” she added.

Video from the Israeli side of the heavily-fortified fence on Saturday morning (local time) showed explosions sending up clouds of smoke among a line of ruined buildings.

Al Jazeera, which broadcast live satellite TV footage overnight showing frequent blasts in Gaza, said Israeli air strikes had hit areas around the enclave’s main hospital, Al Shifa, in Gaza City in the north.

Parts of Gaza are a wasteland after weeks of Israeli airstrikes. Photo: Getty

Israel’s military accused Hamas on Friday of using the hospital as a shield for its tunnels and operational centres, an allegation the group denied.

Reuters could not verify reports of strikes near the hospital.

Hostages’ families anger

An Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting live on Saturday morning, said after a night of heavy bombardment Palestinians were taking the dead and injured to hospital in their cars.

Some of the relatives of people captured in Israel during the October 7 Hamas assault demanded a meeting with the Israeli government after what they called “the most terrible of all nights”.

“None of the war cabinet bothered to meet with the families of the hostages to explain one thing – whether the ground operation endangers the well-being of the 229 hostages in Gaza,” the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum headquarters said.

Gallant said he would meet with family representatives of the hostages on Sunday.

Another relative of hostages, Yosi Shnaider, said Israel’s military operation was the only way to release them.

“We can’t wait anymore,” he said. Friday.

Topics: Gaza, Israel
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