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Escalations Continue Between Israel and Hamas as the Joint Death Toll Rises to 1,200

October 9, 2023
Palestinians take hold of a tank after crossing the border fence with Israel from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023. Photo crredit: Said Khatib / AFP.

More than two days have passed since Hamas launched a surprise attack from Gaza on Israel, taking Israel’s military and intelligence establishment by surprise and resulting in significant urban combat on its streets for the first time in decades.

Civilian casualties are rising on both sides, with Israel reporting over 700 casualties and Gaza witnessing nearly 500 killed. Palestinian militant groups claim to be holding more than 130 Israeli captives.

The Israeli army has asserted that it has regained control of all towns around the Gaza fence. Army spokesperson Daniel Hagari mentioned that clashes between troops and fighters have become isolated in recent hours, and there is currently no fighting in the region.
Hagari affirmed the possibility of remaining militants in the area. Tanks, along with support from combat helicopters and drones, are guarding the breaches around the fence, and 15 out of 24 border towns have been evacuated.

Israel’s military is actively searching the southern part of the country for Hamas fighters and securing breaches in its border fence with tanks. Simultaneously, Israel is conducting airstrikes on the Gaza Strip as it prepares for a campaign aimed at dismantling the “military and governing capabilities” of Hamas, as stated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel formally declared war on Sunday, 8 October, suggesting more intense fighting lies ahead, including the possibility of a ground assault on Gaza, which has historically resulted in higher casualties. Palestinian militants continue to launch rocket barrages, triggering air raid sirens in cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Al Qanoua stated that Hamas fighters are engaged in battles outside Gaza and have captured additional Israelis as recently as the morning of Monday, 9 October.

He affirmed that their goal is to secure the release of all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which has previously agreed to exchange large numbers of prisoners for individual captives or the remains of soldiers.

Bombings in Gaza

Israel has conducted over 1,000 airstrikes in Gaza, including leveling parts of Beit Hanoun in the northeastern enclave. These airstrikes have caused significant damage to homes and infrastructure. The United Nations has reported that Israeli airstrikes have destroyed 159 housing units and severely damaged 1,210 others.

In the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike killed 19 people, including women and children. In another incident, an airstrike on a home in Rafah killed 19 members of the Abu Quta family, also including women and children.

Israeli media outlets have reported that at least 73 soldiers have been killed on the Israeli side. The Gaza Health Ministry has reported 493 people killed in the territory, including 78 children and 41 women.

Israeli airstrikes have targeted two refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, with Al Jazeera reporting that “two massive raids” struck Jabalia and the Al Shati refugee camps within a span of ten minutes. Gaza City’s main hospital has received numerous casualties, although an exact figure has not been provided.

Additionally, a mosque in al-Shati was hit without prior warning by the Israeli army.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, has declared a complete blockade of Gaza, which he stated would result in “no electricity, no food, and no fuel” for the region. Gallant characterized the situation as a battle against individuals he referred to as “beastly people,” and Israel is implementing what he described as a “complete siege.”

Reports suggest that Israel is seeking help from Egypt to secure the release of hostages and that Egypt has also been involved in discussions about a potential cease-fire. However, Israel has not expressed openness to a truce at this stage.

Israeli TV reports suggest that approximately 300,000 reservists have been called up, potentially marking the largest mobilization of reservists in Israel’s history.

A Possible Hamas Escalation

Explosions have been reported in Jerusalem on Monday, 9 October, possibly resulting from rocket interceptions in the air or rocket impacts.

Sky News reports that the missiles are targeting various cities. Israeli emergency services have reported a “huge rocket barrage” occurring in central Israel. The exact origin of these rockets has yet to be confirmed, although Israeli media speculates they may have been launched from the Gaza Strip.

“In response to the recent Red Alert sirens sounded throughout Israel, Magen David Adom (The Israeli national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance, and blood bank service) teams have been dispatched to reported impacted sites,” it said in a statement. “As of now, there are no known casualties.”

Fighting in Lebanon

Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a mortar and guided missile attack on three positions within Israeli territory on Sunday, 8 October. This marks the first action originating from Lebanon in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian militias in the Gaza Strip.

According to a statement broadcasted by Al Manar television, the attack specifically targeted the positions of Radar, Zeyden, and Ruisat al Alam in the Shebaa Farms region, an area controlled by Israel but disputed by Lebanon and Syria.

Hezbollah stated that these attacks were carried out as part of their pursuit of the liberation of remaining occupied Lebanese territory and in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance and the resilient Palestinian population.

Following Hezbollah’s actions, Israel responded by using artillery in a region in southern Lebanon after reports of a “firefight” emerged, as confirmed by the Israeli Army. This area was already on high alert due to the heightened tensions in the region.

Iran’s Involvement

According to senior members of both Hamas and Hezbollah, Iranian security officers were involved in the planning of Hamas’s surprise attack in Israel, which took place on Saturday, 7 October.

The Wall Street Journal reports that officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran had been working with Hamas since August to plan the air, land, and sea incursions. The specifics of the operation were worked out during several meetings in Beirut, attended by IRGC personnel as well as leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas.

U.S. officials have said they have not yet discovered evidence of Tehran’s involvement in this particular operation. Although there has been a long-standing relationship, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated in a CNN interview that they have not seen any proof linking Iran to this incident.

On the other hand, two European officials and a Syrian government advisor have offered accounts of Iran’s role in the run-up to the attack that are consistent with the information provided by senior Hamas and Hezbollah members.

In response, Iran has denied any involvement in Hamas’s assault on Israel, with foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani stating that accusations linking Iran to the attack are politically motivated. Kanani emphasized that Palestinians have the capacity and determination to defend their nation and reclaim their rights without assistance from Tehran.

Arab League Stance

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who currently presides over the Arab League Council, has taken the initiative to convene an “urgent” meeting of the Arab League this week. The purpose of this meeting is to facilitate coordination in response to the worsening situation in the Middle East in the aftermath of the attack carried out on Saturday by Hamas against Israel.

The King has called for a gathering of Arab foreign ministers to collectively address the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the escalating military actions targeting civilians. The aim is to collaboratively find ways to address and mitigate this serious escalation of violence.

According to a statement from the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, there are active and intense discussions underway to schedule this important meeting later this week at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo.

Support from the United States

U.S. lawmakers and officials from the Biden administration held discussions regarding increased support for Israel during a briefing with House leadership on Sunday, 8 October, according to sources familiar with the call, as reported by CNN.

Senior officials representing the State and Defense Departments informed lawmakers that they are working expeditiously to provide weapons and resources to Israel in line with existing contracts. This approach aims to ensure prompt delivery of necessary items, addressing concerns about the timing of Congressional action on a larger aid package.

The support the U.S. may offer includes items such as artillery shells and missiles for Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Additionally, officials indicated that they are to explore the option of sending further aid immediately through the USD 100 million Presidential Drawdown Authority, which the Biden administration can utilize for various purposes worldwide. Lawmakers urged the Biden administration officials to propose a direct supplemental aid package for Israel.

The U.S. is deploying a Navy carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which includes guided missile destroyers and guided missile cruisers, in addition to increasing the presence of fighter jets in the Middle East. These measures are intended to serve as a deterrent to Hezbollah in Lebanon and other militant groups aligned against Israel, according to officials.

In response to the ongoing conflict, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday, 8 October. However, no specific action was taken following the meeting. The Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. mentioned that “not all” member nations had condemned the attacks by Hamas but did not specify which countries were involved. It is worth noting that for the UNSC to release a statement, all 15 member nations must vote unanimously.

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