Israel launches ‘unprecedented’ strikes in Gaza as power and internet cut off amid 'expanding operations'

27 October 2023, 19:28 | Updated: 28 October 2023, 00:47

The IDF has pummelled Gaza ahead of an anticipated ground invasion, while the military vowed to expand its ground operations
The IDF has pummelled Gaza ahead of an anticipated ground invasion, while the military vowed to expand its ground operations. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Israel announced it was "expanding operations" in Gaza on Friday evening as it stepped up airstrikes in Gaza.

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The Israeli Defence Forces' (IDF) top spokesman said in an update on Friday evening that the military is "prepared on all fronts".

The news came as the bombardment against Gaza appeared to ramp up and communication lines to the strip seemed to be cut, leaving it without power and internet.

It has launched raids into the territory, with a second armoured night incursion taking place on Thursday. The IDF also said it had launched an attack from the sea using commandos in a brief attack.

Israel’s war cabinet reportedly made the decision to expand ground operations in Gaza after discussions about a potential hostage release failed to progress, according to The Times.

Read more: Israel launches second night raid on Gaza with tanks, drones and helicopters ahead of ground invasion

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said: "In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight.

"The IDF is operating at all dimensions."

He added: "In recent hours we have increased the attacks in Gaza. The air force widely attacks underground targets and terrorist infrastructure, very significantly."

The IDF has again told citizens in Gaza city to move south.

Israel’s intensified bombardment of the area came not long after it had accused Hamas of using the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza as a shield for the group’s command structure.

Rear Admiral Hagari said ground operations are being expanded
Rear Admiral Hagari said ground operations are being expanded. Picture: Screengrab

On Friday evening, the US said it would back humanitarian pauses in Gaza to allow aid to reach the region.

National security advisor for the White House, John Kirby, also said the US would support a “localised, temporary pause” in fighting if it would mean getting hostages out of the strip.

While UK Foreign Secretary said after the expanding operation was announced: "Israel is expanding their military campaign against Hamas.

"The UK’s top priority remains the safety of British nationals in Gaza and the region.

"We support Israel’s right to self defence, in line with IHL, and continue to push for the protection of Palestinian civilians."

Three weeks on from Hamas massacre, and amid Israeli politicians to destroy the terror group's ability to harm its citizens again, the IDF is yet to launch a major operation, despite calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists.

Instead, it is pummelling the strip with air strikes, leaving about 7,000 people dead as it targets Hamas.

Read more: 'Bring them home': Hundreds of balloons released in London for each Hamas hostage as families demand safe return

The attacks have led to fears of a humanitarian catastrophe as other countries plead with Israel to ensure aid can get into the strip.

Following Israel’s announcement the UN General Assembly announced on Friday it had voted in favour, by an overwhelming majority, for an immediate truce in Gaza - although this is not legally binding.

The vote also includes the condemnation of all “terror and indiscriminate attacks” and the “immediate and unconditional release” of all hostages.

Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan hit out at the UN’s vote for a truce, as he said: “Today is a day that will go down as infamy. We have all witnessed that the UN no longer holds even one ounce of legitimacy or relevance.

“Israel will continue to defend itself. We will defend our future, our very existence by ridding the world of Hamas’s evil so that it can never threaten anyone else again.”

Hopes remain that Hamas will allow the roughly 220 hostages to go with help from Qatari and Egyptian negotiators. Blue and white balloons were released in cities across the world, with each balloon symbolising one hostage.

The Israeli government has pledged to degrade Hamas, with Benjamin Netanyahu this week vowing that all their fighters are "doomed".

The IDF is expanding ground operations
The IDF is expanding ground operations. Picture: Alamy

Troops and tanks launched another ground raid into northern Gaza on Thursday night, striking several Hamas targets in order to "prepare the battlefield" ahead of the expected ground invasion.

The raid came after the UN warned it is on the verge of running out of fuel in the Gaza Strip.

Tanks backed by fighter jets, helicopters and drones crossed over the border, wiping out Hamas targets and infrastructure, the Israeli Defence Forces said.

The raid took place near the Shuja'iyya neighbourhood.

The IDF said it had previously launched limited forays into Gaza to try and secure hostages.

The conflict has ignited community tensions across the world.

In the UK, Labour politicians have begun calling for a ceasefire, despite Sir Keir Starmer simply calling for pauses to allow aid in.

London's mayor Sadiq Khan, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have all called for an end to the violence.