Israel Sends Ground Forces into Southern Gaza Amid Mounting Civilian Deaths
Witnesses reported that Israel has deployed ground forces into the south of Gaza in its ongoing conflict with Hamas, ignoring global concerns over increased civilian casualties and the potential spread of the violence throughout the Middle East.
According to witnesses, dozens of Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and bulldozers entered southern Gaza near the city of Khan Yunis, which is home to many internally displaced Palestinians. Amin Abu Hawli, aged 59, stated that the Israeli vehicles were about two kilometers inside Gaza in the village of al-Qarara. Similarly, Moaz Mohammed, aged 34, observed Israeli tanks moving along the strip’s main north-south highway, the Salah al-Din road.
Following the deployment of ground forces and tanks into northern Gaza a few weeks ago, the Israeli army has been conducting air drops of leaflets in the besieged territory’s south, particularly around Khan Yunis. The leaflets urge Palestinians to evacuate to safer areas, indicating a significant escalation in the conflict.
The Israeli Defense Forces have continued to intensify their ground operations against Hamas strongholds in the Gaza Strip, exemplified by a statement made by spokesman Daniel Hagari on Sunday. He emphasized that the IDF will target Hamas wherever they are entrenched in the region.
After the collapse of a week-long truce mediated by Qatar, the United States, and Egypt, full-scale fighting resumed on Friday. During the truce, Israel and Hamas engaged in numerous hostage and prisoner exchanges, but the violence reignited, leading to increased air strikes in Gaza’s south, according to James Elder, a spokesperson for UNICEF.
Elder expressed concern that the attacks in the south of Gaza are as severe as those witnessed in the north, highlighting the escalating impact on children and mothers. Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas in retaliation for the group’s October 7 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and led to the capture of 240 hostages.
The Gaza Health Ministry has reported that over 15,500 people have been killed in Gaza, with women and children making up about 70% of the casualties. These devastating statistics have sparked global alarm and triggered mass demonstrations, prompting U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, to declare that there are no safe places in Gaza.
The Israeli army reported that three additional soldiers were killed in fighting in northern Gaza on Monday, bringing the total number of troop deaths to 75. Furthermore, over 400 Israeli defense personnel have been killed since October 7.
The cycle of violence continued with more air strikes targeting northern Gaza, including the Kamal Adwan hospital as reported by the Hamas-run government and the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa. The strike resulted in multiple casualties, prompting accusations against Israel for violating humanitarian law.
The situation in Gaza has drawn the attention of the international community, including the United States, which has called for the protection of civilians. Vice President Kamala Harris voiced concern over the high number of innocent Palestinian casualties. This sentiment was echoed by a White House official who stated that the U.S. believes Israel should make efforts to minimize civilian casualties.
Amid the escalating violence, the issue of Gaza’s civilian population displacement remains a major concern. The Israeli government has clarified that it does not seek to permanently displace Palestinian civilians from their homes. However, the ongoing conflict has resulted in around 1.8 million Gazans, roughly 75% of the population, becoming displaced.
The situation has caused fears of a wider regional conflagration, with the involvement of U.S. forces in the Red Sea, targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen, and clashes between Israel and Hezbollah on the northern border with Lebanon. The occupied West Bank has also witnessed a surge in violence, adding to the already volatile situation in the region.