Israel To Press On With ‘Intense Ground Operations’ Against Hamas In Gaza Despite Biden Admin’s Pressure

2024-02-22 10:00:41

Israel has vowed to push on with its counter-terrorist operation in Gaza despite mounting pressure from President Joe Biden’s administration. The Israel military “is preparing the continuation of intense ground operations” in Gaza, the country’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly told the visiting White House Middle East advisor Brett McGurk.

The defense minister’s remarks come as Israel is expected to participate in a multi-national summit in Paris on Friday in a bid to secure the release of remaining Israeli hostages languishing in Hamas captivity since October 7. Israel has agreed to “widen the mandate for the officials” attending the Paris talks but will not halt ongoing military operations in Gaza, the Israeli minister disclosed.

The Israeli military is gearing up to launch an offensive on the terrorist stronghold of Rafah during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan — once the Gaza civilians are safely evacuated from the area, the Israeli media reports indicate.

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz “reiterated that Israel was prepared to launch a planned Rafah offensive during Ramadan if a hostage deal is not reached by the time the Muslim holy month starts around March 10,” The Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

The Jerusalem Post reported Israeli minister Gallant’s remarks to White House envoy McGurk :

Israel plans to expand the framework for a hostage deal, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk ahead of the latest pending summit on the captives led by CIA Director Willian Burns.

“We will widen the mandate for the officials involved in the negotiations on the hostages,” Gallant said when the two men met in Tel Aviv.

Gallant also underscored for McGurk that the IDF “will continue to expand its ground operation in Gaza.”

McGurk is in Israel after a stop in Egypt to advance a deal to release the remaining 134 captives in Gaza and ensure that Israel has a sufficient plan to ensure the safety of Palestinian civilians should it embark on a military operation in Rafah.

The pending Rafah operation, which has been widely condemned by the international community even before it had been executed, has been one of the pressure levers Israel has used to push Hamas to soften its stance on the terms of a deal.

Biden presses Israel to reach a deal with Hamas before Ramadan

The Biden administration is pressing Israel to abandon the planned offensive on Rafah and cut a deal with Hamas. The Biden White House wants the deal to be finalized as it fears violent Muslim protests and rioting during the month of Ramadan, news reports suggest. A surge in violent anti-Israel protests and Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel often accompanies Ramadan.

Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reported in Axios:

President Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk urged Israel to send a delegation to the upcoming hostage talks in Paris, telling Israeli officials there has been progress in the negotiations between Egyptian and Qatari mediators and Hamas, three sources with knowledge of the issue told Axios.

Why it matters: Biden administration officials say they want to try and get a deal before the start of Ramadan in less than three weeks to ensure there is a temporary ceasefire in place during the Muslim holy month.

IDF destroys terrorist targets in southern Gaza

In line with the defense minister’s statement, the IDF continues to destroy Hamas’s jihadist fighters and terrorist infrastructure — particularly in the southern Gaza stronghold of Khan Yunis. Removing Hamas’s terrorist fighting force in Khan Yunis is key to the much-anticipated Israeli offensive on the Hamas bastion of Rafah on the Egyptian border.

Over the past day, (…) IDF ground troops continue to engage and kill terrorists and destroy terrorist infrastructure in the area of Khan Yunis,” the military said in a press release Thursday morning. “IDF troops eliminated over 15 terrorists in western Khan Yunis. During targeted raids, the troops located AK-47s, grenades, additional military equipment, as well as additional explosive devices intended to harm the troops. Additionally, IDF directed an aircraft to strike a military site in which a terrorist cell was identified.”

IDF intercepts Houthi missile shot at Israeli port city of Eilat

The Israel air defense on early Thursday shot down a missile fired by Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists aimed at the Israel port city of Eilat. The southern Israeli port city is vital for the Jewish State’s growing trade with India and Far-East Asian countries.

The missile attack is part of Yemen-based Houthis attempt to disrupt Israeli commercial shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Adan. Over the weekend, Houthis fired missiles at several Western ships, nearly sinking British-owned cargo ships off the coast of Yemen.

The Israeli TV channel i24NEWS reported:

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Israel’s advanced Arrow air defense system successfully intercepted a ballistic missile over the Red Sea, believed to have been fired by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The missile was aimed towards Israel, specifically the southern city of Eilat, before being shot down over the Red Sea.

Video footage from Eilat captured the aftermath of the interception, showing smoke trails in the sky.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the missile did not breach Israeli airspace, and sirens were activated in Eilat as a precautionary measure against potential falling debris.

This interception marks the sixth time Israel’s Arrow system has neutralized a ballistic missile threat, all amidst ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. While the Houthis have not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, their past actions indicate “solidarity” with Gaza, where Israel has been engaged in a war with Hamas.

Israeli air force hits Hezbollah terror targets ‘deep’ in Lebanon

The Israeli air force carried out strikes on Hezbollah terror targets ‘deep’ inside Lebanon, news reports suggest. “Israeli fighter jets launched the deepest airstrikes yet on Lebanon,” the British newspaper Telegraph reported Thursday.

The latest IDF strikes came in response to Hezbollah’s deadly rocket attacks on northern Israel. “One woman was killed and eight more people were injured as 20 rockets targeted the city of Safed and other areas in the north, according to first responders,” the UK daily noted.

“Safed, which is 13 kilometres from the Lebanese border and hosts an important IDF base, has largely been unaffected by exchange of fire between Israel and Hezbollah since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. The city has not received evacuation orders unlike swathes of northern Israel,” the newspaper added.


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Israel To Press On With ‘Intense Ground Operations’ Against Hamas In Gaza Despite Biden Admin’s Pressure


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