Israeli troops will soon see Gaza 'from inside', says defence chief

'All the indications are that the worst is coming,' says Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi

By Reuters

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Israeli troops patrol at an undisclosed location along the border with the Gaza Strip on October 19. — AFP
Israeli troops patrol at an undisclosed location along the border with the Gaza Strip on October 19. — AFP

Published: Fri 20 Oct 2023, 1:23 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 Oct 2023, 1:26 PM

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told troops gathered at the Gaza border on Thursday that they would soon see the Palestinian enclave "from inside", suggesting an expected ground invasion with the aim of annihilating Hamas could be nearing.

Israel pounded Gaza with more air strikes on Thursday over the October 7 rampage by Hamas gunmen who killed 1,400 Israelis.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak followed US President Joe Biden with a visit to demonstrate Western support for the war against Hamas. Sunak also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who called the targeting of Gaza civilians "heinous".

Israel has put the Gaza Strip's 2.3 million people under siege and bombarded the enclave in strikes that have killed thousands and made more than a million homeless.

In Gaza's north, footage obtained by Reuters from the Jabaliya refugee camp showed residents digging with their bare hands inside a damaged building to free a small boy and girl trapped under masonry. The body of a man was also pulled out.

"You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come," Gallant told soldiers. Troops were not expected to enter while foreign leaders were visiting.

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Shortly after Gallant's statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video of himself with troops near the border promising victory.

"All the indications are that the worst is coming," Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters in Amman.

US seeks to bolster support for Israel

US President Joe Biden on Thursday asked Americans to spend billions more dollars to help Israel fight Hamas.

In a televised White House speech, Biden said Hamas sought to "annihilate" Israel's democracy. He added that he would ask Congress on Friday to approve extra funding for Israel. A source familiar with the matter earlier said it would total $14 billion. The money would "sharpen Israel's qualitative edge" and strengthen its military capabilities, Biden said.

The US president, who made an eight-hour visit to Israel on Wednesday, also stressed the urgency of getting relief to Palestinian civilians in Gaza who lack food, water and medicine.

"We can't ignore the humanity of innocent Palestinians who only want to live in peace and have opportunity," he said.

Gaza hospital blast

The visit came amidst the turmoil after a Gaza hospital explosion that Palestinians blamed on an Israeli air strike but that Israel said was caused by a failed rocket launch by Palestinian militants. Biden backed the Israeli account.

An unclassified US intelligence report, seen by Reuters on Thursday, estimated that the death toll from the hospital blast was "probably at the low end of the 100 to 300 spectrum," but added that the assessment may evolve. It said only light structural damage had been observed at the hospital.

Palestinian officials had said 471 people were killed in the blast at Al Ahli al Arabi hospital late on Tuesday, and Israel's foreign ministry said "dozens" of people died.

In a statement, Hamas reported an explosion on Thursday at the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City where Christians were taking shelter. Hamas reported "huge damage" and "many casualties" at the church dating to the 12th century.

It said Israel had attacked the church, but Reuters was not immediately able to independently confirm a strike nor assess damage, and Israel did not comment on the incident. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said targeting the church "constitutes a war crime."


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