Israeli military says it’s prepared for air, ground and naval offensive in Gaza

The Israeli military says it has prepared a “coordinated” offensive in the Gaza Strip involving air, ground and naval forces.In a statement on its website Saturday night, the army said it is “preparing to implement a wide range of offensive operative plans.Israel has bombarded Gaza for days and ordered roughly half of the territory’s population to evacuate their homes ahead of an expected ground offensive in response to a brutal cross-border Hamas attack.Israel has not said when the offensive will begin.

Medical officials say an estimated 35,000 people have crammed into the grounds of Gaza City’s main hospital, seeking refugee ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive.

Mohammad Abu Selim, general director of Shifa Hospital, confirmed that massive crowds had thronged the building and the courtyard outside. Shifa is the largest hospital in the entire Gaza Strip.“People think this is the only safe space after their homes were destroyed and they were forced to flee,” said Dr. Medhat Abbas, a Health Ministry official. “Gaza City is a frightening scene of devastation.”

The Israeli military has ordered roughly half of Gaza’s population, including all of Gaza City, to evacuate as it prepares to send in ground forces.Israel has been bombing Gaza for the past week, killing more than 2,200 so far in response to a cross-border Hamas attack that killed over 1,300 Israelis.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to seek China’s help in preventing the Israel-Hamas war from spreading.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken called Wang on Saturday from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to ask China to use whatever influence it has in the Middle East to keep other countries and groups from entering the conflict.

Miller would not say which countries and groups the U.S. believes Beijing has influence with but China is known to have close trade and political ties with Iran, which in turn supports Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.Miller declined to characterize Wang’s response, but said the U.S. believes it and China have a shared interest in Middle East stability.

Hezbollah’s TV station has reported an intense exchange of fire along Lebanon’s border with Israeli positions in a disputed area along the border with Syria’s Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.Al-Manar TV reported that Hezbollah fighters pounded Israeli positions in the Chebaa Farms and Kfar Chouba hills area on Saturday.

It was the latest exchange of shelling between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters since last Saturday following Hamas’ attack on southern Israel.Israel’s military said that it was striking Lebanon after coming under fire from Hezbollah. Chebaa Farms was captured by Israel from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war, but Lebanon considers it and the nearby Kfar Chouba hills as Lebanese territories.The Golan Heights were annexed by Israel in 1981.

UNICEF calls for immediate cease-fire and humanitarian access into Gaza

The U.N. children’s agency is calling for an immediate cease-fire and humanitarian access into the Gaza Strip, saying hundreds of thousands of children and their families have started fleeing northern Gaza.

UNICEF said children and families in Gaza have practically run out of food, water, electricity, medicine and safe access to hospitals, following days of hostilities and cuts to all supply routes.

“The situation is catastrophic, with unrelenting bombing and a massive increase in the displacement of children and families. There are no safe places,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.

UNICEF said its staff have continued to respond to the critical needs of children across the Gaza Strip, but access is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous.

The agency said UNICEF staff will stay in southern Gaza to continue to provide support for children in need.


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