The Biden administration is advising Israel to delay its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The White House wants more time to negotiate the release of hostages held by Hamas and to allow for more humanitarian aid to enter the coastal enclave, U.S. officials told The New York Times on Sunday.
Hamas is holding 222 Israelis in Gaza whom they captured during the Oct. 7 assault on southern Israeli communities. The terrorist group murdered at least 1,400 people and wounded more than 5,100 in the attack.
The Americans also reportedly want more time to prepare their forces for attacks on U.S. interests in the region by Iran-backed terrorist groups that could follow an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
However, the officials said that the U.S. isn’t demanding a postponement and still supports Israel’s ground invasion and goal of eradicating Hamas in Gaza.
Two U.S. officials said that the advice to hold off on the invasion was being conveyed by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.
However, a diplomat at the Israeli embassy in Washington denied the report, telling the Times that the United States was not advising Israel to delay the invasion.
“We have a close dialogue and consultations with the U.S. administration. The U.S. is not pressing Israel in regards to the ground operation,” the source said.
Biden and Netanyahu discuss Gaza
U.S. President Joe Biden held another phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.
“The President welcomed the first two convoys of humanitarian assistance since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack, which crossed the border into Gaza and is being distributed to Palestinians in need. The leaders affirmed that there will now be continued flow of this critical assistance into Gaza,” the White House said.
“The President expressed appreciation for Israel’s support in helping to accommodate the release of two American hostages. The leaders discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all the remaining hostages taken by Hamas—including U.S. citizens—and to provide for safe passage for U.S. citizens and other civilians in Gaza who wish to depart.”
IDF strikes over 300 Hamas targets
The IDF said on Monday that over the past 24 hours, it had attacked more than 320 “military” targets in the Gaza Strip, including “tunnels containing Hamas terrorists, dozens of operational command centers, some of which concealed Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, military compounds and observation posts.”
Israeli forces also attacked dozens of mortar and missile launch posts that threatened troops massed near the Gaza border. Also overnight, an IDF tank hit a “number of terrorist cells,” including an anti-tank missile cell.
Terrorists from the Gaza Strip fired an anti-tank missile at Israeli troops stationed along the border fence on Sunday afternoon, killing one soldier and wounding three others.
Also on Sunday, the IDF said that its Yahalom special operations engineering unit recently found 15 pounds of explosive material hidden in a school backpack that a Hamas terrorist carried during the Oct. 7 massacre.
The booby-trapped bag contained a remotely-activated bomb.
During the Yahalom unit’s operational activity in southern Israel since the terrorist assault, it collected more than 1,000 guns, 2,000 grenades, 1,000 RPG rockets and 1,200 explosive devices.
IDF hits Hezbollah over Lebanon border
The Israel Defense Forces also struck Hezbollah targets in Southern Lebanon overnight Monday, including a terrorist cell planning to carry out an anti-tank missile attack on the town of Shlomi.
It was the sixth terrorist cell Israeli forces attacked along the border since Sunday night, according to the IDF. Four of the cells had been preparing to fire missiles or rockets when they were hit, according to the Israeli military.
IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on Monday that the military has carried out strikes to eliminate 20 Hezbollah cells in Southern Lebanon since the start of the war.
Additionally, the IDF destroyed an anti-tank missile launch post, a “military” compound and an observation post belonging to the Iran-backed terrorist group.
Palestinian terrorist factions and Hezbollah have been carrying out cross-border attacks every day since the Oct. 7 massacre.
In total, six Israelis, five soldiers and one civilian have been killed near the border since Oct. 7, in the worst escalation there since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Israel announced on Sunday the planned evacuation of 14 additional communities near the frontier with Lebanon, after last week enacting a plan to relocate residents of 28 villages and the city of Kiryat Shmona there.
According to an analysis by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Hezbollah has 50,000 to 100,000 fighters and some 150,000 to 200,000 rockets, mortar bombs and missiles. Hundreds of those missiles are “of high precision and highly destructive.”