Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

ISRAE said the earth “shook” as it unleashed a punishing bombardment last night on Hamas – and there could be more to come for those left in Gaza.

Civilians still hunkered down in the tiny enclave are being told to get out now and flee south as Israel vowed to continue its relentless campaign to destroy the terror group Hamas.

An Israeli army soldier advances during a drill in the country’s north

A man carries a wounded girl following Israeli airstrikes on northern Gaza

Smoke rises as Israeli forces on the border with Gaza shell their targets with howitzers

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaza

Israel army officials have said Gaza City was now a “battlefield” as they stepped up their campaign against the killers behind the massacre of 1,400 people on October 7.

Hamas-run health authorities in 25-mile territory have claimed so far some 7,300 civilians have been killed – including 3,000 children.

Leaflet drops, phone calls and social media campaigns have been run by the IDF to try and encourage people to leave the region and travel south.

The terrorist group have been accused of the region’s population as human shields as they hide in a network of tunnels, with some even allegedly burrowed beneath hospitals.

Israeli troops and tanks are understood to be continuing to operate inside the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’ mysterious spokesman Abu Obaideh – who was this week unmasked by Israel – issued a new taunt ahead another potential night of strikes.

“We tell the enemy, which repeats its threats daily, that we are still waiting for it,” he goaded on Telegram.

“The enemy will taste a greater defeat than he expected or feared.”

Israel has staged three consecutive nights of raids -with the largest coming last night as tanks and troops crossed into Gaza.

The enclave was plunged into darkness as power and the internet was cut – essentially leaving it cut off from the rest of the world on Friday and Saturday.

And after Israel vowed their offensive was in a “new phase” – it is expected further strikes will hit again across Gaza.

But the timeline for the full-scale invasion of the area – home to 2million – remains unknown.

The world is holding its breath amid fears the volatile conflict could be the match that sets off an explosive wider war in the Middle East.

It comes as:

Israel “expanded” their ground operations with a fresh bombardment and large raid into GazaIt followed smaller overnight tank assaults on Wednesday and ThursdayForces are also massing on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to face down terror group HezbollahIsrael revealed Hamas’ alleged ‘Terror HQ’ hidden beneath a hospital in northern GazaFears are growing an invasion of Gaza could be the “bloodiest war for more than 100 years”And there could be just six steps between the Gaza crisis and all-out war in the Middle EastSAS forces are on standby in Cyprus to rescue Brits stranded in GazaVladimir Putin is feared to try and cash in on the war with a new “Axis of Terror”US forces continue to mass in the Middle East – striking Iran-backed militia groups with airstrikes

Israeli chief of staff Herzi Halevi said the country’s “best fighters” were now operating in Gaza.

He said: “This war has stages and today we are moving to the next stage.

“Our forces are currently operating on the ground in the Gaza Strip.”

His comments came after Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant promised to “continue to be strong and precise, and hunt down every terrorist”.

The “ground shook in Gaza last night,” he said as he warned the IDF had “entered a new stage in the conflict… the operation will continue until new orders are given”.

And meanwhile, IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari warned Gazans the “window to act is closing” as he urged them to leave.

He said: “Humanity remains haunted by the massacre unleashed by Hamas on October 7, a massacre of innocent lives. Israeli men, women, children, and babies were beheaded, executed, raped, and burnt alive.

“We won’t forget that.

“And the kidnapping of over 200 Israelis we will not forget.”

The IDF shared footage of tanks massing the morning after the assault

Tanks roll into Gaza for the night time raid – the third in three days

IDFIsrael released footage from the massive attack last night showing explosions on the horizon[/caption]

IDFBombs blitz buildings within the Gaza Strip in the military video[/caption]

Huge amounts of Israeli armour are surrounding the Gaza Strip

Calls for a ceasefire continue to go unheard, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres criticising the “unprecedented escalation” in Gaza.

He warned: “A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes.”

And elsewhere, protests erupted in cities including London calling for peace.

Some 300,000 troops have been massed by the IDF since the massacre and columns of armoured vehicles have encircled Gaza.

US officials described last night’s armed raid – the third and largest this week – as what seemed to be the “rolling start” of an invasion.

The Biden administration earlier confirmed it was sending carrier strike group USS Dwight D Eisenhower to support Israel.

The aircraft carrier appears to have now entered the Mediterranean, according to various ship trackers.

Family members of the hundreds of hostages held in the Strip said last night was “the worst of all nights”.

A message issued on their behalf read: “It was an unending night, against the background of the IDF’s major operation in the Gaza Strip, and complete uncertainty regarding the fate of the abductees who are being held there and are also subject to the heavy bombardment.

“Anxiety, frustration, and especially enormous anger that nobody from the war cabinet bothered to meet with the families of the abductees to explain to them one thing – whether the ground operation endangers the safety of the 229 hostages in Gaza.

“The families are anxious for the fate of their loved ones and are waiting for an explanation. Every minute that passes feels like an eternity.”

Yesterday’s escalation came after reports that hostage negotiations had stalled over the release of those kidnapped by Hamas.

Israeli forces said this morning they destroyed some 150 underground bases.

And they announced the deaths of two senior Hamas commanders – including the leader of the paraglider wing Asem Abu Rakaba.

Footage released by the IDF showed the intense attack with “hundreds” of bombs, as tanks massed on the border in the night.

Orange flames lit up the sky as guns boomed – with the fighting visible across the border from Israel.

Hamas meanwhile vowed its forces were ready to confront the Israelis with “full force” after the night-time assault.

Rockets launched by the cowardly terror group once again fell on Tel Aviv and other cities in Central Israel.

Palestinians reported tanks and troops crossing into the north of the 25-mile enclave near Beit Hannoun and Beit Lahia.

Israeli media reported the advance had gone “deep” into the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials are said to have left things “deliberately vague” as they continue to lay the groundwork for a potentially larger offensive.

GettyFireballs erupt over the skyline from the Israeli airstrikes[/caption]

AFPTanks roll near Gaza as dawn broke following the attack last night[/caption]

AFPPalestinians gather amid the destruction in Gaza[/caption]

People check the wreckage of a destroyed building after bombings in the Strip

GettyIt was the most intense night of bombardment since October 7[/caption]

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