JERUSALEM, Israel – Nearly one week after Israel’s Gaza ground campaign began, Israeli forces have encircled Gaza City. The next phase of the fighting could be the most dangerous.
Intense fighting continues in and around Gaza City, the Hamas stronghold. The Israeli Defense Forces (I.D.F.) are attacking with ground forces and artillery, as well as from the air.
The I.D.F. Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, said the military is destroying Hamas’s terror infrastructure.
“We are deepening the achievements, ready to attack in other arenas if necessary,” Halevi stated. “We have thousands of more armaments and targets, we are ready for any development in any arena; I.D.F. forces, regular and reserve, are deployed in a wide and strong deployment in the north.”
Hamas’s elaborate labyrinth of tunnels is one of the Israeli military’s main concerns. Russian television was allowed access into some of the more than 300 miles of tunnels.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told soldiers of the I.D.F.’s special engineering unit that the military has “unique solutions” to dismantle the tunnels underground.
The I.D.F. continues to plead with civilians in northern Gaza to leave the combat zone.
“We’ve been calling on the civilians in northern Gaza and Gaza City to move south away from Hamas strongholds in the north next to Gaza City – move south temporarily, for your own safety.”
President Joe Biden announced that another 74 Americans have been evacuated out of Gaza through the Rafa Crossing into Egypt.
The White House also defended the president’s idea of a humanitarian pause.
“A temporary pause that’s localized that would allow us to get aid in and to get our people out is a good thing for the people of Gaza,” National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby explained. “It’s a good thing for the Americans that are being held hostage. And it’s not going to stop Israel from defending itself because the security assistance we’re providing continues to flow. And a temporary pause doesn’t mean a general cease-fire where the war is over. It means a pause, only temporary, for a specific purpose.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived today in Israel and wants to push for that humanitarian “pause” or “pauses” that may also help with the release of hostages.
The Times of Israel reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing the idea, but some are concerned this could be a step toward a cease-fire of some sort, or an opportunity for Hamas to strengthen itself.
In an editorial, The Wall Street Journal argued:
“Hamas has two messages for two different audiences. To the international community, it pleads for a cease-fire on humanitarian grounds. To the Arab world, it pledges to repeat its Oct. 7 attacks and sacrifice as many Palestinians as it takes to destroy Israel. That’s what a cease-fire means to Hamas: a chance to repeat Oct. 7 another day. The similar idea of a ‘humanitarian pause,’ gaining steam on the Western left, is, to Hamas, merely an opportunity to reload.”
But others hope a pause or cease-fire would be an opportunity for more hostage rescues.
Up north, the I.D.F. is attacking Hezbollah positions in south Lebanon after the terror group continues firing rockets into Israel. CBN’s Chuck Holton was on the scene of a rocket strike in Kiryat Shmona.
“They’re just cleaning up the mess now,” Holton reported. “A car was hit and it flipped the car up in the air and it landed in the middle of the street. The parking space where the car was is now a crater, as is the shop right in front of where the missile hit.”
Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hezbollah’s patron, is calling on Islamic governments to block oil and food to Israel and have no economic cooperation with the Jewish State.
Today, the region is anticipating the speech of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. The U.S. says it hasn’t seen any indication Hezbollah is set to join the conflict, but others are concerned its entry could expand the fight into a regional war.