Middle East The head of the Israeli army warns Hamas: "Our obligation is to enter Gaza"

Without losing sight of the increasingly warlike northern border against the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Israel has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in the south to begin at any moment the land search for troops, tunnels and weapons of the fundamentalist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip

Middle East The head of the Israeli army warns Hamas: "Our obligation is to enter Gaza"

Without losing sight of the increasingly warlike northern border against the Lebanese group Hezbollah, Israel has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers in the south to begin at any moment the land search for troops, tunnels and weapons of the fundamentalist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Gaza under pressure from incessant bombs.

The intensification of the air attacks that have hit Gaza territory for a week, the weather conditions and the pace of the dramatic evacuation of several hundred thousand inhabitants from the north to the south of the Palestinian Strip will mark the timing of the start of the offensive by land. The second phase of the war between Israel and the Gaza militias could give way to the first between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, which has the help of Hamas commandos in southern Lebanon.

In a meeting with officers and soldiers deployed in southern Israel, army chief Herzi Halevi confirmed the ground incursion: "Our responsibility now is to enter Gaza, reach the places where Hamas prepares, operates, plans and launches ( projectiles). Hit them hard anywhere, any operative, destroy their entire infrastructure. In a word, win."

"You are going to do something big and important that should change the situation for many years in a clear way," said Halevi, alluding to the relationship with Gaza since it was controlled by Hamas in 2007 and after the most serious armed attack that Israel has suffered. in its history.

The volume and distribution of Israeli troops along the border line with the Gaza Strip suggests that, with the operational plans already approved, the only thing missing is the Government's order. At the moment, numerous drones and fighter jets are heading in constant flights to the Gaza Strip, continuing an offensive with a balance, according to the Gazan authorities, of at least 2,450 deaths since Saturday, October 7.

Avi, a reservist from Jerusalem, will surely be part of the massive incursion into Gaza. His opinion reflects the general feeling among uniformed and non-uniformed people in his country. "We have no choice but to enter and destroy the terrorists. For too long we have allowed a fundamentalist regime that hates us and also screws the inhabitants of Gaza two meters from our homes," he told us, considering Hamas' actions in the deadly infiltration that caused more than 1,300 deaths and 150 kidnapped "typical of the Nazis or pogroms."

The Israeli authorities began this Sunday, in fact, the evacuation of the city of Sderot, the most important city located in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip, with a view to the beginning of a large-scale ground military operation. The city has been the target of rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave for years. More than 60,000 Israelis living in the south of the country have already abandoned their homes for this reason.

Other reservists were called up from further afield such as Madrid, Rome and New York in a massive airlift of Israelis. In this tense border area, the Tsáhal's missions now focus basically on attack, defense, logistics and civil protection. This is the largest mobilization of reservists in a country that, shocked by Black Saturday, has turned to the war against Hamas. "The Jewish people live! United in the rear and united in the front," is a slogan that can be seen on posters distributed next to the country's flags on the roads leading to the border and to the still closed kibbutzim. Routes with a large police and military presence (also due to fear of new infiltrations) and firefighters and auxiliaries (who respond to each impact of a projectile fired from Gaza). Citizens from the rest of the country arrive to bring food and other goods to the deployed forces while more than 60,000 from the south have abandoned their homes.

The very poor Palestinian enclave completed its ninth night of nightmare with air attacks unprecedented in their intensity that hit senior members of the armed wing (like this Sunday Billel Al Kedra, responsible for the attack on Kibbutz Nirim), but also houses and roads. Israel indicates that it attacks all infrastructure that serves Hamas, whether underground projectile launchers or a 12-story building that it believes contains the fundamentalist group's command rooms.

Hamas tried to prevent - sometimes physically - the continuation of the evacuation of inhabitants from the north to the south of Gazan territory. It is estimated that between half a million and 600,000 people completed the departure from areas such as Beit Lahia or Beit Janun to the south, which this Sunday received water from Israel. Whether due to pressure from the US or for operational reasons to encourage the arrival of Palestinians from the north, Israel has opened the tap in the south after several days of closure in which products such as water, fuel or electricity did not enter.

Gaza City is key both in the evacuation and future incursion and in the treatment of the wounded in its hospitals. Two of them informed Israel that they refuse to move to medical centers in the south, theoretically safer but equally overwhelmed as the search work among ruins. The World Health Organization (WHO) defined the Israeli request as a "death sentence." "WHO strongly condemns Israel's repeated orders to evacuate 22 hospitals caring for more than 2,000 patients in northern Gaza," it said in a statement, warning that "the forced evacuation of patients and health workers will further worsen the current catastrophe." humanitarian and public health.

The flight of displaced people to the southern area of ​​Khan Yunis is followed with concern by Egypt, which hopes that they will stay there and that they will not end up knocking en masse at their doors in Rafah. Under strong pressure from Washington, Cairo will give the green light to the arrival of foreigners trapped in Gaza as long as they can verify that their documents are real. In other words, to prevent tens of thousands of Palestinians from temporarily settling in the Sinai. Beyond condemning the Israeli attacks by pointing out that "it is no longer a defense action but collective punishment", the Egyptian Rais, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, promotes the sending of humanitarian aid "to relieve the pressure."

In an interview with CNN, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan noted that Egypt gave the green light for the entry of its fellow citizens, but the first group could not cross the border due to the action of Hamas. "Civilians in the Gaza Strip deserve access to water and medicine and we are actively working to ensure that this is the case," he added, confirming his support for the attacks against Hamas and pressure to avoid a humanitarian crisis even though it seems inevitable.

"We have been able to help 520,000 people, but we are running out of supplies, we cannot get anything in or out or guarantee the safety of our staff," denounced the executive director of the UN World Food Program, Cindy McCain, after confirming the shortage of wheat flour, electricity or water. The closure of the Gaza power plant forced bakeries and shops to close, her organization had reported last Saturday, warning that in the bakeries she contacted there was a shortage of wheat flour, electricity or water. "There are rules, even in war, and we have to make the protection of aid workers and civilians a priority. Civilians will starve without our help," she added.

Another key factor for the ground incursion in the short term and the outcome of the crisis in the long term is the issue of the around 150 kidnapped people. There are more and more clues about an agreement, sponsored by Qatar and with active intervention by the US, for the release of babies, children and elderly women who have been in the hands of the fundamentalist group for more than a week.

In his first meeting with families of those kidnapped, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated this Saturday that one of the objectives of the operation is to achieve their release. "My father explained to me what he suffered in the Nazi concentration camp, but I never imagined that I would have to see how they murdered innocent people or abused corpses," lamented Dudi Zalmanovich, representative of the families, expressing a feeling that partly explains the Israeli consensus on the air and ground offensive against Hamas.

In a striking gesture, Netanyahu has invited US President Joe Biden to visit Israel in the coming days.

When all eyes were focused on Gaza this weekend, Hezbollah and Israel were approaching a large-scale confrontation although it is not in the interest of either party. The pro-Iranian group claimed responsibility for firing at least six anti-tank missiles against Israel, causing the death of a civilian for the first time in this crisis, in response to the death of several militiamen and a journalist in Israeli retaliation in recent days by projectiles or infiltrations. In mid-afternoon, he announced that he attacked 15 Israeli positions in the "warming up" of the border before the helpless gaze of the Lebanese army and the concern of the UN forces, led by Spanish general Aroldo Lázaro. This Sunday, a missile hit the headquarters of UNIFIL troops in the Naqoura area without causing any casualties.

Within Hezbollah, more and more voices are heard threatening war if Israel invades the entire Gaza Strip. Iran, patron of the Lebanese militia and sponsor of Hamas, makes its position clear. "It cannot be that Iran remains a spectator in the situation," warned the Iranian Foreign Minister, Hosein Amir Abdolahian, in an interview with the Qatari network Al Jazeera. In no coincidence, the Iranian, who defined Israel's attacks as "crimes", met in Doha with the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyah.