The United States is pressing Israel to delay its anticipated ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, according to reports. Meanwhile, hundreds are reported killed as Israel continues to pound the Palestinian enclave and small ground-force clashes are also reported.
President Joe Biden’s administration has advised Israel to delay its invasion plan to allow time for the release of hostages and shipments of aid into Gaza, according to US officials quoted by The New York Times newspaper on Monday.
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The report, which also suggests that Washington is concerned about preparing for attacks on US interests in the region, remains unconfirmed.
Meanwhile, Israeli air attacks on Gaza have intensified. Some 400 Palestinians have been killed in the last 24 hours, according to Palestinian health officials.
The Hamas-controlled government media office in the blockaded Gaza Strip said in a statement that more than 60 people were killed in the Israeli raids overnight.
At least 10 other people were killed in further attacks on Monday morning, the media office said in a separate statement, bringing the overall death toll since Sunday night to at least 70.
The Israeli military said on Monday morning it had hit “over 320 military targets in the Gaza Strip” over the past 24 hours.
“The terror targets struck included tunnels containing Hamas terrorists, dozens of operational command centres … and Islamic Jihad terrorists, military compounds, and observation posts,” it said in a statement.
Ground forces clash
Hamas fighters engaged with Israeli forces who infiltrated the Gaza Strip on Sunday, according to the Palestinian group’s armed wing Qassam Brigades.
The group said the infiltration took place east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza region.
“Fighters engaged with the infiltrating force, destroying two bulldozers and a tank and forced the force to withdraw, before they returned safely to base,” the statement said.
The Israeli army also said one of its soldiers was killed and three injured during the clash on Sunday, adding that the aim was to locate captives held by Hamas.
On Monday, in a televised briefing describing Israel’s latest moves on the ground, its chief military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said 222 people had been confirmed as taken captive on October 7 by Hamas.
“During the night, there were raids by tank and infantry forces. These are raids that kill squads of terrorists who are preparing for the next stage in the war,” Hagari said, describing incursions that went “deep” into Gaza.
“These raids also locate and search for anything we can get in terms of intelligence on the missing and the hostages.”
Hagari said such interventions helped understand where “the terrorists are assembling, [and how] the terrorists are getting organised in anticipation of the next stages of the war. And our role is to reduce these threats”.
The unconfirmed New York Times report said the Biden administration wants to buy time for negotiations with Hamas on the release of the captives and to allow more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.
It added that American officials also wanted more time to prepare for possible attacks on US interests in the region from Iran-backed groups, which officials said are likely to intensify once Israel moves its forces fully into Gaza.
For more than two weeks, Israel has been attacking Gaza.
The violence has killed at least 1,400 people in Israel and more than 4,650 people in Gaza.
Amid the campaign, tens of thousands of Israeli troops are gathered along the enclave’s borders for a widely anticipated ground invasion.
Israel has told more than one million residents in northern Gaza to move south for their safety, and the United Nations says more than half of the territory’s 2.3-million population is now displaced.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to remain in and around Gaza City in the north, unwilling or unable to leave.