ISRAEL blasted Gaza last night in a shock and awe bombardment ahead of a full invasion.
The heaviest bombing in three weeks of war saw the terrorists’ lair battered from land, sea and air.
APThe heaviest bombing yet has seen Gaza battered from land, sea and air[/caption]
EPAIsrael has stated their aim of destroying Islamist terror group Hamas[/caption]
The dark skies above Gaza City were lit up as fires raged.
Hamas responded with rockets as sirens sounded.
In a TV address, Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said: “In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight.
“In recent hours we have increased the attacks in Gaza.
“The Air Force is widely attacking underground targets and terrorist infrastructures.
“Following the offensive activity we have carried out in recent days the ground forces are expanding their activity.”
He said the military was “operating forcefully” on all fronts, but stopped short of describing the escalation as a ground invasion.
But it was a clear step towards Israel’s stated aim of destroying the Islamist terror group.
The first signs of the operation to rout Hamas came yesterday evening with reports that phone and internet networks were down in the Gaza Strip.
Arab news network Al Jazeera said it was unable to contact journalists.
Huge blasts then rocked Gaza City and other settlements.
Palestinian telecom firm Jawwal said Gaza had been cut off, with a “complete interruption of telecommunications services”.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said the Israeli strikes “hinder the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded”.
But Israel claimed hospitals in Gaza had been used by Hamas as military bases.
Commanders even directed the massacre of Israeli innocents from a centre under one hospital.
The group has dug a series of tunnels under the 1,500-bed Al- Shifa Hospital, Gaza City’s biggest medical complex.
And after the attack on October 7, gunmen fled back to their subterranean bases
Mr Hagari went on: “We have concrete evidence that hundreds of terrorists flooded into the hospital to hide there.”
He said Israel had intelligence of tunnels leading to an underground base from outside the hospital. But there is also an entrance within one of the wards.
Mr Hagari said: “Hamas terrorists operate inside and under Shifa Hospital — and other hospitals in Gaza — with a network of terror tunnels. Shifa is not the only hospital — it is one of many.”
He accused Hamas of using the hospital’s patients and 4,000 staff as human shields and said: “Hamas wages war from hospitals.”
Israel has had Gaza surrounded with a deadly force of the world’s most sophisticated military hardware and thousands of troops.
Thousands of terrorists swarmed through a 20ft security fence at dawn three weeks ago today.
They targeted kibbutz communities, torturing, raping and slaughtering men, women and children.
Only four have been released as negotiators urged Israel to delay any invasion.
America also reportedly requested a delay to give it time to ship anti-missile systems to the region after a series of attacks on US bases.
But Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to waver from his aim to obliterate Hamas.
Last night’s bombardment came after American F-16 fighter jets blitzed Iranian targets in Syria.
They targeted terror-linked ammo facilities used by the Tehran-backed militias, including Hezbollah.
The Lebanese–based group’s attacks have raised fears of a global conflict.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said: “There was a direct message relayed.”
Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said the strikes were “separate and distinct” from the situation in Gaza.
AFPHamas have built their base underneath the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza[/caption]
AFPIsraeli spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari says operations are expanding[/caption]