Nearly half of Israelis want their government to delay a ground invasion of Gaza, according to a new poll which will pile pressure on beleaguered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A week ago, two thirds of those in Israel favored an ‘extensive invasion’, yet now only 29 percent want the Israel Defence Force (IDF) to go in immediately, while 49 percent prefer to wait.
The dramatic shift came as fears grew of the Gaza crisis turning into a wider conflict after US warplanes launched air strikes on Iran-linked militant bases in Syria overnight. The Israeli Army meanwhile, launched its second incursion in successive nights into Gaza in a preparatory move for a ground invasion, targeting the extensive tunnel network from where Hamas terrorists could emerge. The new mood of caution in Israel is down to Hamas’s release of four hostages of the total of at least 233 men, women, and children they abducted during the terrorist group’s murderous rampage on October 7 which left 1400 people dead.
Since then Israel has unleashed a round-the-clock bombing campaign directed at Hamas in Gaza, which has also killed thousands of Palestinians. In the survey of 522 Israelis by right-leaning daily newspaper Maariv, only 29 percent wanted the Army to escalate to a large-scale ground offensive immediately, with 49 percent saying ‘it would be better to wait’. ‘It is almost certain that the developments on the matter of the hostages, which is now topping the agenda, have had a great impact on this shift (in opinion),’ Maariv wrote.
Hamas says around 50 hostages have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza. One ex-hostage said she had been held, along with at least two dozen others, in an underground Hamas tunnel and bunker complex that is a focus of Israel’s offensive. Three people were wounded, one moderately and two lightly in a new round of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel when one missile hit an apartment in Tel Aviv as Israelis prepared for the Friday night beginning of the Jewish Sabbath.
In Syria the US deployed a pair of F-16 fighter-bombers overnight to attack a weapons storage facility and an ammunition plant near Abu Kamal – both of which were allegedly run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The strikes were not connected to the Israel-Hamas war, the Pentagon insisted, but they came just hours after Iran’s Foreign Minister said the United States will ‘not be spared from this fire’ if Israel continues to attack Hamas – leading analysts to conclude the strikes were a blatant warning to Iran not to take advantage of the regional turmoil. In the wake of the strikes, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov ruled out any risk of Russia being drawn into the conflict but said the strikes would further stoke tensions across the region.
‘This is very bad,’ he said. The U.N. agency providing aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza has warned it may have to shut down operations shortly if no fuel reaches the enclave, amid an increasingly desperate need for shelter, water, food, and medical services. The United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said it urgently needed fuel to maintain life-saving humanitarian operations in the Islamist Hamas-ruled enclave that has been under Israeli bombardment for almost three weeks.
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