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Israeli tanks briefly enter Gaza after Netanyahu vows Hamas will 'pay the price'

The Israeli military said Thursday that it had briefly sent tanks into the northern Gaza Strip overnight as part of preparations for the next stage of fighting, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that a ground invasion of the enclave was likely.

It was at least the second time in the conflict that Israel had conducted a limited ground raid in Gaza, after it said some troops had briefly entered the territory two weeks ago. The military said in a Telegram post that it had hit multiple targets and “operated to prepare the battlefield,” without offering details.

Nearly three weeks after the war began, it remains unclear if or when Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza. In a televised speech Wednesday evening, Netanyahu did not offer details on the scope of a possible invasion, but vowed that Israel would exact a price for the Oct. 7 incursion led by the Hamas armed group that resulted in the massacre of more than 1,400 people.

The United States has asked Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza for a few days to give it more time to provide more protection for US troops at bases in the region, according to US officials. The Biden administration has also been trying to buy more time for hostage negotiations and to allow more aid to enter Gaza. It also wants the Israeli military to refine its military objectives and potentially move away from a grinding urban fight that would incur large casualties.

In the meantime, Israel has been relentlessly bombing Gaza from the air, carrying out more than 250 strikes over the past day, its military said. Israel says it is hitting Hamas targets, but Palestinians accuse it of indiscriminately killing civilians. The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry says more than 6,500 have died. Those figures cannot be independently verified, and President Joe Biden on Wednesday questioned their accuracy.

Here is what else to know:

— Fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip have grown so dire that the UN agency that has helped feed, school and shelter Palestinians there for decades said it had begun to significantly reduce its operations. It said it had nearly exhausted its reserves of fuel, which it needs to run generators. Israel has blocked fuel from entering Gaza on the grounds that it could be used by Hamas for military objectives.

— Almost one-third of the 35 hospitals in Gaza are not functioning, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, and seven major hospitals were well over capacity. The United Nations says the amount of aid that has entered Gaza is only a fraction of what is needed.

— The UN General Assembly on Thursday is poised to vote on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the conflict. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but reflect a wider global view than the UN Security Council, which has been deeply divided on a response to the war.

— The US House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution declaring solidarity with Israel and pledging to support it in its war with Hamas. Separately, Biden’s pick to serve as the next US ambassador to Israel, Jacob Lew, is poised to be confirmed to the post in the coming days.

(Published 26 October 2023, 12:32 IST)

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