newsIsrael at War

Biden to visit Israel; IDF pummels Gaza ahead of expected ground op

Ayman Nofal, a member of the General Military Council of Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in an IDF airstrike.

Fire and smoke rise during Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
Fire and smoke rise during Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.

U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Israel this week in a show of support, as the IDF continues to strike Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip ahead of an anticipated ground offensive.

“On Wednesday, I’ll travel to Israel to stand in solidarity in the face of Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack,” Biden tweeted on Tuesday morning.

“I’ll then travel to Jordan to address dire humanitarian needs, meet with leaders, and make clear that Hamas does not stand for Palestinians’ right to self-determination,” he added.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told CNN on Tuesday that Biden‘s visit would not delay a ground operation in Gaza.

“The [American] president also said that Hamas needs to be destroyed, and that is our military aim,” Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Conricus said in an interview.

An IDF convoy near the Gaza border, Oct. 15, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday night officially announced Biden’s trip following a meeting at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials that lasted for over seven hours.

“President Biden will visit Israel. He’s coming here at a critical moment for Israel, for the region, and for the world,” tweeted Blinken.

In a separate post, Blinken announced that “at our request, the United States and Israel have agreed to develop a plan that will enable humanitarian aid from donor nations and multilateral organizations to reach civilians in Gaza, including the possibility of creating areas to help keep civilians out of harm’s way.”

Netanyahu Blinken
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (center right) after a meeting at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

Hamas said on Tuesday that Ayman Nofal, a member of the General Military Council of its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, died in an IDF air strike. According to the Associated Press, Nofal is the highest-profile Hamas terrorist to be killed so far in “Operation Swords of Iron.”

Also on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command arrived in Israel ahead of meetings with defense officials.

Gen. Michael Kurilla was to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, among others, to “gain a clear understanding of Israel’s defense requirements, outline U.S. support efforts to avoid expansion of the conflict, and reiterate the Department of Defense’s ironclad support for Israel.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was also slated to arrive in Israel on Tuesday, an adviser to Netanyahu told reporters. Scholz will meet with the premier as well as Ministers-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot, both members of the National Unity Party who have joined the Jewish state’s unity government.

French President Emmanuel Macron will likewise visit Israel in the coming days, according to Hebrew-language media reports. The French embassy did not immediately confirm the reports, but said Macron would visit Jerusalem as soon as there is a “useful agenda and concrete actions to promote.”

On Tuesday, the Al Arabiya news site reported that more than 100 aid trucks are waiting to enter the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing.

The report said the trucks were slated to be allowed in at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office on Monday denied reports of a temporary ceasefire in southern Gaza to allow for the passage of aid.

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.

Late on Monday, Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida claimed in a video statement that Palestinian terrorists are holding between 200 and 250 hostages in Gaza.

“We assure our people, our prisoners and their families, in every occupation prison—without exception—that, inshallah [‘God willing’], we are determined to bring joy to every Palestinian home,” said Abu Obeida, apparently hinting at a possible prisoner-exchange deal.

Hamas also released unverified footage allegedly showing one of the Israeli captives. The video appears to show a young woman receiving medical care in Gaza.

“I’m Mia Shem, 21 years old from Shoham. Currently, I’m in Gaza. I returned early Saturday morning from Sderot—I was at a party. I was seriously injured in my hand,” the woman says, calling on Israel to “get me out of here as soon as possible.”

Shem was kidnapped while taking part in a music festival in the desert near Kibbutz Re’im, where Hamas gunmen also massacred at least 260 festival-goers.

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip protest outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Oct. 14, 2023. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed on Monday that at least 199 hostages, including an unknown number of foreign nationals, had been taken to Gaza.

Hamas killed at least 1,400 Israelis in a massive attack on Oct. 7, which included the firing of thousands of rockets at Israel and the infiltration of the Jewish state by more than 2,500 terrorists, who butchered and tortured men, women, children and infants.

Israeli soldiers remove bodies in Kibbutz Kfar Aza in southern Israel, Oct. 10, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Overnight Monday, the IDF struck more than 200 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including a Hamas headquarters.

Israeli naval vessels also carried out strikes, including against Hamas command centers and weapons storage sites in Gaza City.

On Tuesday, the IDF carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Hamas headquarters and sites where terrorists gathered. The strikes took place in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, the northern part of Rafah, Jabaliya and Khan Younis.

The military also hit Hezbollah targets in Lebanon in response to Monday’s anti-tank missile fire into Israeli territory.

The Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen television channel quoted the Iran-backed terrorist organization as saying it had targeted “Misgav Am, Khirbat al-Manara, Hormon, Birket Risha and Ramiya with appropriate weapons, inflicting confirmed hits in all five sites.”

On Tuesday morning, the IDF killed four terrorists who attempted to cross the border from Lebanon and plant an explosive device along the security fence.

On Monday afternoon, Hamas rocket fire targeting Jerusalem interrupted the opening session of the Knesset’s winter session, with legislators exiting the plenum for the parliament’s hallway during the attack.

Netanyahu addressed the session, vowing to investigate how Hamas was able to catch Israel off-guard with the devastating invasion.

“We have already started to apply immediate lessons. But now we are focused on one goal: to unite forces and charge forward to victory,” he said.

“This is a moment of determined struggle against those who rose against us to destroy us. Our goal is victory; an overwhelming victory over Hamas, overthrowing its rule and removing its threat to the State of Israel once and for all,” said Netanyahu.

Describing the struggle as one between “the sons of light and the sons of darkness,” the prime minister said the world now understands what Israel is up against, comparing Hamas to the Nazis and Islamic State.

The civilized world must realize that “our war is also your war,” he said, adding, “If we don’t stand together on one front, it will come to you, too.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog attend a plenary session at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
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