Israeli tanks rolled into the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday night in a pinpoint raid “as part of preparations for the next stages of combat,” the army said.
Under the lead of the Givati Brigade, an infantry unit, Israeli forces struck terrorists and their infrastructure, including anti-tank missile launch posts, and “operated to prepare the battlefield” before returning to Israeli territory.
Army Radio reported that the raid was more extensive than other ground activities that have been carried out in Gaza in the last two and a half weeks since the start of “Operation Swords of Iron,” which was declared by the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli government in the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas operatives throughout southern Israel near the border with Gaza.
Hamas terrorists murdered more than 1,400 Israelis and wounded some 5,000 others in the massive offensive, which included the firing of thousands of rockets at Israel and the abduction of some 200 hostages, most of them civilian men, women and children.
A total of 267 people are still hospitalized in Israel from the Oct. 7 attack.
And rockets continued to be launched from the Gaza Strip.
Israel Air Force fighter jets have continued to hit Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on a daily and nightly basis since Oct. 7, with the military reporting on Thursday afternoon that the commander of Hamas’s northern Khan Younis rockets array, Hassan al-Abdullah, was killed in one such airstrike.
IAF jets also struck Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Strip on Thursday, including military command centers and rocket launch posts.
One of the strikes on Thursday killed the deputy leader of Hamas’s intelligence department, Shadi Barud. As part of his previous position in Hamas’s terror assault department, Barud was instrumental in planning the Oct. 7 attacks, the IDF said.
A terror rocket hit an apartment building in Petach Tikvah on Thursday afternoon during a massive barrage fired from Gaza at Tel Aviv and the Gush Dan region of central Israel.
Rocket warning sirens also sounded in Holon, Rishon Letzion, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak and surrounding communities.
Video footage taken shortly after the Petach Tikvah strike showed that the rocket slammed into a balcony and into a bedroom. No injuries were reported and firefighters arrived at the scene.
Meanwhile, seven people were lightly hurt in the northern Israeli city of Ma’alot-Tarshiha after an IDF drone fell on the balcony of their home, the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya reported on Thursday afternoon.
The hospital said that the patients—five adults and two children, ages 5 and 11—were treated for smoke inhalation and anxiety and that they were all released except for a 66-year-old man hospitalized for further treatment.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a prime-time televised speech on Wednesday night that the IDF is preparing for a ground operation in Gaza, adding that the timing had been unanimously agreed on by the war cabinet and military establishment.
“We are working around the clock in order to execute the goals of our war until victory, and we do so without political considerations,” said Netanyahu.
“We have already killed thousands of terrorists and this is just the beginning,” he said. “All Hamas operatives must die, above ground, underground, inside Gaza and outside Gaza.”
On Thursday, a senior Hamas official told the Associated Press that the terror organization had expected a stronger intervention from Hezbollah in its war with Israel.
“Hezbollah now is working against the occupation,” Ghazi Hamad told reporters at the Hamas offices in Beirut. “We appreciate this. But … we need more in order to stop the aggression on Gaza … We expect more.”
In recent days, the IDF has stepped up airstrikes on Hezbollah terrorist cells preparing to carry out missile and rocket attacks on northern Israel. At least 46 operatives of the Iran-backed terrorist group have been killed over the past three weeks.
On Thursday, the IDF carried out a drone strike against a Hezbollah cell attempting to carry out an anti-tank guided missile attack against an army post on the border.
Israel has reportedly acceded to an American request to delay its planned ground invasion of Gaza so that the U.S. can position air defenses to protect its forces in the region.
Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported on Thursday that the Israeli Defense Ministry is set to extend the evacuation order of communities located along the Gaza and Lebanese borders until Dec. 31.
Some 200,000 Israelis are displaced internally due to the ongoing war with Hamas in the south and rising tensions along the northern border due to Hezbollah.