President Joe Biden is pressuring Israel to delay its ground invasion into Gaza in order to buy time to secure the release of more hostages.
Additionally, the Biden administration wants to buy time for more humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians and to prepare for possible attacks on U.S. interests in the region from Iran-backed groups, U.S. officials told The New York Times.
Israeli warplanes have been hitting targets across Gaza ahead of an expected ground invasion into the Hamas-led territory. Israeli officials want to eliminate Hamas – a goal the U.S. supports. Officials, however, worry such an invasion could lead to retaliation from Iran against American interests in the region.
President Joe Biden is pressuring Israel to delay its ground invasion into Gaza in order to buy time to secure the release of more hostages – he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday
White House spokesman John Kirby did not say the administration was pushing Israel to hold off its ground game but emphasized that America’s focus is on the return of the hostages.
‘We have been talking about our Israeli counter parts about their plans, their intentions, their strategy. We have been asking them for how they’re answering the tough questions that any military is going to have to do before you go on and conduct major operation,’ Kirby told CNN on Monday morning.
‘The Israeli defense forces, they make these decisions themselves.’
But, he added: ‘nothing has changed about our focus on those hostages. We’re glad we got two back home with their families, where they belong last week. We want to get the rest of them out. You got to have the ability to continue to negotiate and try to work towards that outcome. We absolutely want to make that happen.’
Hamas and other militant groups are believed to be holding more than 200 people captive. Additionally, these groups are blocking U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals from leaving, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The release on Friday of two Americans held by Hamas has increased hopes that more of the hostages will be set free.
‘The [administration] pressed Israeli leadership to delay because of progress on the hostage front,’ and the need to get trucks of aid into Gaza, one person familiar with the discussions told CNN.
But Blinken also refused to directly address the question of whether the U.S. is pushing for a delay in a ground attack.
‘There are many, many Israelis who are hostages and of course, hostages from other nationalities,’ he said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation.
‘We’re working to do everything we can, using whatever levers, partnerships, relationships we have to get them out. Israel is doing the same. But in terms of what we’re talking to Israel about with regard to their military operations, it really is focused on both how they do it, and how best to achieve the results that they seek.’
He also said the administration is worried Iran will escalate its actions in the region.
‘In fact we expect that there’s a likelihood of escalation, escalation by Iranian proxies directed against our forces, directed against our personnel,’ he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people.’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to be preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza to destroy Hamas
Biden administration was encouraged by the release of Americans Judith Tai Raanan and her daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan
Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and, in a readout of the call, the two leaders have agreed to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The leaders also ‘discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas — including U.S. citizens — and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza who wish to depart,’ the White House said.
Also, Biden and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy spoke on Sunday. They called for the release of all hostages believed to be held in Gaza while affirming Israel’s right to defend itself.
The war, in its 17th day Monday, is the deadliest of five Gaza wars for both sides. The Hamas-run Health Ministry said that at least 5,087 Palestinians have been killed and 15,270 wounded. In the occupied West Bank, 96 Palestinians have been killed and 1,650 wounded in violence and Israeli raids since Oct. 7.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians who died in the initial Hamas rampage into southern Israel.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces debuted a weapons system dubbed the ‘Iron Sting’, sharing video of it being used to destroy Hamas rocket launchers as they step up aerial assaults and raids on terrorist squads in Gaza ahead of the planned ground invasion.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have already staged ‘limited’ raids to fight Palestinian gunmen and say they are targeting sites where Hamas terror squads are assembling as they prepare to resist a wider Israeli invasion.
‘During the night there were raids by tank and infantry forces. These raids are raids that kill squads of terrorists who are preparing for our next stage in the war. These are raids that go deep,’ chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing.
Hamas said the infiltration by what it described as an armoured force took place east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
‘Fighters engaged with the infiltrating force, destroying two bulldozers and a tank and forced the force to withdraw, before they returned safely to base,’ a statement said. There was no Israeli comment about the destruction of equipment.
As Israel promises an escalation and hints an invasion may be imminent, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh told his cabinet that thousands more Gazans could lose their lives as they are ‘exposed to the Israeli murder machine’.
Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Monday
A man carries a Palestinian girl pulled out of a house destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Monday
Buildings are reduced to rubble and smoke fills the air in Gaza City, 23 October 2023
A wounded Palestinian woman runs after Israeli airstrikes hit her neighbourhood in Gaza City
Members of the al-Zanati family killed following an Israeli strike, are taken to a waiting vehicle to be driven to a cemetery for burial in Khan Yunis
On Sunday the IDF unleashed the ‘heaviest 24 hours’ of bombing since the Israel-Hamas conflict began just over two weeks ago, with media sources in Gaza saying 400 Palestinians were killed in strikes across the enclave.
As part of their aerial assault, the Israeli army and air force utilised the Iron Sting weapon, described as ‘an innovative and accurate mortar bomb’.
Dramatic footage of the moment the 120mm mortar was released shows it falling before making contact with a rocket launcher, exploding into a huge ball of fire and sending debris flying.
‘[The Iron Sting] fulfills the IDF’s needs, adapting combat capabilities to contend with enemies hidden within civilian, urban environments, while meeting the legal and moral standards set by the State of Israel,’ then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a 2021 release on the system’s development.
Its use comes as the current Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said that the IDF operation to eliminate Hamas may take months.
At the same time, he promised that the assault, which is expected to extend an already bloody and protracted war, would be the ‘very last’ one as he vowed to completely eradicate Hamas.
‘This needs to be the last manoeuvre in Gaza, for the simple reason that after it there will be no Hamas,’ he said yesterday in an address to military chiefs at air force headquarters in Tel Aviv.
‘It will take a month, two months, three, but in the end, there will be no Hamas.
‘Before the enemy meets the armoured and infantry forces, it will meet the bombs of the Air Force. I am under the impression that you know how to do it in a lethal, precise, and very high-quality way, as it has been proven until now,’ he concluded.
Gallant’s comments offered yet another indication of an impending ground assault, with tens of thousands of IDF soldiers massed on the Gaza border awaiting orders.
How soon Israel might launch a full-scale invasion is not clear, and neither side can know exactly what to expect when it does.
The Middle East’s most powerful military faces a group that has built up a powerful arsenal with Iran’s help, fighting in a crowded urban setting and using a vast tunnel network it has built that Israeli troops have dubbed the ‘Gaza Metro’.
Overnight, one IDF soldier was killed in a failed operation to liberate hostages in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis. The IDF said raids overnight tried to gather information on the 222 hostages being held by Hamas.
Israel’s Rear Admiral Hagari confirmed on Sunday night that one soldier was killed and three others wounded during the failed bid to rescue hostages.
The raid was launched as part of efforts to rescue the more than 200 hostages abducted in the October 7 Hamas attack, which also saw more than 1,400 people killed in Israel by gunmen from the terrorist group.
As the IAF’s bombardment of Gaza continues, pressure has intensified on Israel to negotiate the release of Hamas’s captives, with families pleading with officials to secure the freedom of their loved ones ahead of the imminent ground invasion.
Palestinian Prime Minister, a Fattah party member who has sought peace negotiations with Hamas during his tenure, has slammed Israel’s continued bombardment of Gaza.
‘Our people in the Gaza Strip are exposed to… the Israeli murder and criminal machine,’ he told his government in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Fears of a widening war grew as Israeli warplanes struck targets across Gaza, two airports in Syria and a mosque in the occupied West Bank allegedly used by terrorists.
And early on Monday, Israeli aircraft struck two Hezbollah cells in Lebanon, which were planning to launch anti-tank missiles and rockets toward Israel, its military said, as fighting flared across the two countries’ shared border.