Israel army intensifies Gaza strikes 'very significantly'

An Israeli army soldier sits in the hatch of a Puma armoured personnel carrier (APC) in a column with other vehicles near the Gaza border in southern Israel. Photo: AFP

Gaza: The Israeli military said on Friday it had increased its strikes on Gaza "in a very significant way", as AFP live footage captured intense bombardment of the territory's north. Daniel Hagari, a military spokesman said that the Israeli army will continue to strike in Gaza City and around. Explosions from continuous airstrikes lit up the sky over Gaza City for hours after nightfall. 

The military's announcement signaled it was moving closer to an all-out invasion of Gaza, where it has vowed to crush the ruling Hamas militant group after its bloody incursion in southern Israel three weeks ago.

Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border ahead of an expected ground offensive. Earlier Friday the military said ground forces conducted their second hours-long incursion inside Gaza in as many days, striking dozens of militant targets over the past 24 hours.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told foreign reporters that Israel expects a long and difficult ground offensive into Gaza soon. It will take a long time to dismantle Hamas' vast network of tunnels, he said, adding that he expected a lengthy phase of lower-intensity fighting as Israel destroys pockets of resistance.

UNGA passes resolution

The United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly backed a resolution drafted by Arab states calling for an immediate humanitarian truce and demanded aid access to the besieged territory and protection of civilians.

While not binding, the resolution carries political weight, reflecting the global mood. It passed to a round of applause with 120 votes in favour, while 45 abstained and 14 - including Israel and the United States - voted no.

'Communications cut across Gaza'

Meanwhile, the Hamas government said Israel "cut communications and most of the internet" across the Gaza Strip on Friday. The government's media office accused Israel of taking the measure "to perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea," as heavy strikes hit northern Gaza.

AFP journalists in Gaza confirmed they were only able to communicate in limited areas where they could connect to Israeli networks across the border.

Palestinian telecoms provider Jawwal announced "the total cut of all communication services and internet" in the territory.

"The heavy bombardment in the last hour destroyed all remaining international routes connecting Gaza to the outside world," Jawwal wrote on its Facebook page.

Global internet monitor NetBlocks reported "a collapse in connectivity in the Gaza Strip with high impact to Paltel," Jawwal's owner, citing live network data.

Israeli ground forces had massed outside Gaza, where Israel has been conducting an intense campaign of aerial bombardment since a deadly Oct. 7 attack by hundreds of Hamas gunmen, who rampaged through Israeli communities near the strip, killing 1,400 people and dragging more than 200 into captivity.

A ground invasion would exacerbate what aid groups call a humanitarian crisis in the territory following days of aerial bombardment that Palestinian health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say have killed more than 7,000 Palestinians.

(With inputs from Reuters, AFP)

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