Israel yesterday stepped up its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats, and warned it could “significantly widen” an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians.
Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces into the densely populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday.
The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen, while 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.
One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded in the operations, in which some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked, the military said.
The land advance followed 10 days of barrages against Gaza from air and sea, hundreds of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel and failed Egyptian attempts to secure a ceasefire.
Rocket salvoes, many of them intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile shield system, continued yesterday against southern Israel, police said, causing no casualties.
“We chose to start this operation after we exhausted other options and reached the conclusion that without it we could pay a much higher price,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters before a special Cabinet session at Tel Aviv military headquarters. “The main goal is to restore quiet.”
“My instructions ... to the Israeli army, with the approval of the security Cabinet, is to prepare for the possibility of a widening, a significant widening of the ground operation,” he said.
He did not say what form a broadened offensive might take. Israel says its forces have focused so far on seeking out tunnels Palestinian militants might use for cross-border raids.
One such infiltration was narrowly thwarted on Thursday, with the army saying it had repelled 13 Hamas gunmen after they emerged from a tunnel close to an Israeli farming community.
To back up regular forces, Israel said it was calling up 18,000 military reservists, adding to 30,000 already mobilized.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded with defiance to the Israeli escalation.
“Netanyahu is killing our children and will pay the price. The ground invasion doesn’t frighten us and the occupation army will sink in Gaza’s mud,” he said.
Hamas wants Israel and Egypt, whose military-backed government is at odds with the Palestinian Islamists, to lift border restrictions that have deepened Gaza’s economic hardship and unemployment.
Pope Francis yesterday telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to express his “very grave concerns” over the conflict in Gaza, the Vatican said.
“A small group of fanatics are the cause of suffering in Gaza. Israel is doing everything to lower the flames and minimise civilian casualties,” Peres replied, according to a statement from the president’s office.
In all, 260 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the fighting, which has destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes, began on Tuesday last week, Gaza officials said.
CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT: A new committee would investigate a backlog of US weapons sales to Taiwan, said its chairman, US Representative Mike Gallagher The US should formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, and end its outdated and counterproductive “one China” policy, US Representative Tom Tiffany and 18 other US lawmakers wrote in a petition. “It is time to change the status quo and recognize the reality denied by the US government for decades: Taiwan is an independent nation,” Tiffany told the Epoch Times. “As our long-standing and valued partner, correctly acknowledging their independence from communist China is long overdue.” The resolution also asks the administration of US President Joe Biden to support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations and to negotiate a bilateral free-trade
The Pentagon is preparing for US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy to visit Taiwan later this year, Punchbowl News reported on Monday, citing an official directly involved in the talks. US administration officials anticipate McCarthy would visit Taiwan some time in the spring, the report said. McCarthy had previously pledged to visit Taiwan if he became House speaker. He was elected speaker earlier this month. He had also said that he would have liked to join then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s delegation when she visited Taiwan in August last year. Pelosi’s 19-hour visit to Taipei marked the first time in 25 years
Taiwan’s Chou Chieh-yu (周婕妤) was crowned the Kamui WPA Women’s World 9-Ball Champion after shutting out British pool titan Allison Fisher 9-0 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the organizers said on Sunday. Following the championship win at Harrah’s Resort and Casino Atlantic City, Chou pocketed US$30,000 and became the first female competitor to hold both the 9-ball and 10-ball world titles since Briton Kelly Fisher in 2012. Chou, 36, won the Predator World Women’s 10-Ball Championship in Austria in September last year after clinching a silver medal at last year’s World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, in July. “I’m very excited and it’s like
JOINT OPERATIONS: Participating in the IMET program, which offers professional training and education to military personnel, would boost Taiwan’s defense capabilities The US government is appropriating funding to help Taiwan participate in its International Military Education & Training (IMET) program to enhance interoperability and capabilities for joint operations of the Taiwanse and US militaries. The funding for Taiwan’s participation in the program is mentioned in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023, a US$1.7 trillion spending bill funding the US federal government for the fiscal year 2023. It covers funding for military support for Ukraine, defense spending and regions affected by natural disasters. The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that IMET is an important US