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Israel to step up strikes on Gaza to create 'best conditions' before ground offensive

Jerusalem: With an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza looming large, Israel has said it will step up its aerial strikes in the besieged Palestinian territory to create the “best conditions” for troops to move in.

Indicating Israel’s preparations for the second stage of its declared three-phase operation to change the security regime in Gaza, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Daniel Hagari said, “We have to enter the next phase of the war in the best conditions, not according to what anyone tells us.”

“From today, we are increasing the strikes and minimizing the danger,” Hagari told reporters on Saturday, in a clear signal towards an imminent ground incursion.

In another clear indicator that Israel was preparing for the second stage of its three-phase operation to change the “security regime” in Gaza, IDF’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi told commanders of the elite Golani infantry brigade earlier on Saturday that they should expect surprises prepared by terror groups when they enter the Gaza Strip.

“We will enter the Gaza Strip. We will begin an operational and professional mission to destroy the Hamas operatives, the Hamas infrastructure, and we will also keep in our minds the images, the scenes and the fallen from Shabbat (Saturday) two weeks ago,” Halevi told the commanders.

He was referring to the latest conflict, triggered by the unprecedented attacks against Israel by Hamas militants on October 7, which killed around 1,400 people. Israel has launched a massive counter-offensive against the Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007.

“Gaza is complex, Gaza is dense, the enemy is preparing a lot of things there, but we are preparing things for them as well,” the IDF chief said.

Earlier this week, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant laid out Israel’s plan to change the “security regime’ in Gaza– implying Hamas’ removal– and said the plan was designed in three stages.

The IDF was currently in the first stage of the plan when it was carrying out aerial strikes. It will be followed by ground incursion and finally, the change of security regime in Gaza, Gallant said.

Israel has amassed hundreds of thousands of troops in preparations for the ground offensive.

More than 1,400 people were killed in Israel in the deadly terror attack carried out by the Palestinian militant group in the south of the Jewish state, and at least 210 were taken captive, a number that is likely to go further up as per official estimates.

Around 4,385 Palestinians are said to have been killed in Gaza in the Israeli offensive that followed.

(Published 22 October 2023, 00:01 IST)

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