Jerusalem and Gaza (CNN) — Israel conducted a “targeted raid” using tanks in northern Gaza before withdrawing, its military said Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned a ground incursion into the besieged enclave will take place.
Video published by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Thursday showed tanks and armored vehicles, including a bulldozer, moving on a road near a fence in northern Gaza. The tanks fired artillery, and some destruction could be seen nearby.
Speaking to CNN, IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner said the raid, which he described as large but limited in scope, was “a clear and sweep operation intended to create better terms for ground operations if and when that comes in.”
“We actually engaged the enemy, killing terrorists who were planning to conduct attacks against us with anti-tank guided missiles,” he said.
“The soldiers exited the area at the end of the activity,” the IDF statement concluded.
The raid comes as new satellite images revealed the devastation wrought by Israel’s bombs in the embattled Gaza Strip.
As the humanitarian crisis reaches a critical point in Gaza, with daily airstrikes, life-saving fuel on the verge of running out and health services crippled, pressure is building on the international community to get Israel to allow desperately needed aid into Gaza, with more countries advocating for a “humanitarian pause” in fighting.
“We are raining down hellfire on Hamas,” Netanyahu said in a televised address Wednesday evening, while claiming Israel has “already eliminated thousands of terrorists – and this is only the beginning.”
“At the same time, we are preparing for a ground incursion,” he added, but said the decision on when such action would be taken would be decided by Israel’s War Cabinet.
The prime minister also acknowledged for the first time that he will “have to give answers” for the intelligence failures that allowed the worst terror attack in Israeli history, saying it will be “examined fully” after the war.
Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, the militant group which controls Gaza, in response to its October 7 deadly terror attacks and kidnap rampage in which 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.
Israeli forces said they killed the deputy head of Hamas’ Intelligence Directorate – one of the Hamas officials they say is partially responsible for planning the October 7 attacks – in a joint statement Thursday from the IDF and Shin Bet, the Israeli Security Agency.
“Based on precise IDF and ISA intelligence, IDF fighter jets struck the Deputy Head of the Hamas’ Intelligence Directorate, Shadi Barud,” the statement said, adding that Barud “previously served as Hamas’ battalion commander in Khan Yunis” and had held several other positions in Hamas’ military intelligence.
The IDF and ISA also released footage they claim shows the strikes that killed Barud, showing at least two damaged buildings in Gaza appearing to collapse.
Hamas has not commented on the claim.
Its retaliatory air assault on what Israel calls Hamas “terror infrastructure” has since devastated the densely-populated 140-square-mile enclave, which had been described by rights groups as an “open-air prison” long before the current war began.
New satellite images released by Maxar taken on October 21, show significant destruction to sites across northern Gaza, with entire neighborhoods flattened in eastern Beit Hanoun and similar devastation near the Al Shati Refugee Camp, Atatra and Izbat Beit Hanoun.
The IDF told civilians to leave the crowded northern portion of the Palestinian enclave, where the bombardment has been especially severe. But it has also continued to bomb areas in the south, with a CNN producer in Gaza saying “there is no safe area.”
Israeli strikes have killed more than 6,850 people and injured a further 17,000 in Gaza since October 7, according to figures released Thursday by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah drawn from sources in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
At a press conference Thursday, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 12 hospitals had been rendered non-operational since Israel’s bombing campaign began, and 101 medical personnel had been killed.
He accused Israeli forces of deliberately causing a complete collapse of the healthcare system by obstructing the entry of fuel and essential medical supplies into Gaza. Israel says Hamas diverts fuel transfer into Gaza for military purposes.
On Wednesday, Al Jazeera said its bureau chief in Gaza, Wael Al-Dahdouh, lost his wife, son, daughter and grandson in what it said was an Israeli airstrike. The blast hit a house in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip where the family was taking shelter after being displaced, according to Al Jazeera. In total, 12 members of the Al-Dahdouh family were killed in the blast, including nine children, a statement from the family said Thursday.
The IDF told CNN it did carry out an airstrike in the area where Al-Dahdouh’s relatives were killed, saying it had “targeted Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the area.”
“Strikes on military targets are subject to relevant provisions of international law, including the taking of feasible precautions to mitigate civilian casualties,” it added.
But harrowing photos show Al-Dahdouh seeing the bodies of his wife and children in the morgue. In one image he can be seen holding the body of his daughter, who is wrapped in a white shroud.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 24 journalists have died since the start of this conflict as of Wednesday. Twenty of those killed are Palestinian, three are Israeli, and one is a Lebanese journalist, CPJ said.
Overcrowded hospitals on the brink of collapse say they are overwhelmed with the numbers of injured people arriving every day and doctors have repeatedly told CNN they don’t have the supplies or the electricity to run critical functions to care properly for them, or other patients, who rely on oxygen supplies to survive.
Videos filmed by journalists working with CNN showed victims in body bags in the aftermath of airstrikes and severely injured people, including children, in overcrowded hospitals.
Families that fled south in an attempt to flee the bombs and staying in UN shelters are grappling with overcrowded conditions which are “severely constraining access to basic assistance and essential services, increasing health and protection risks, and negatively affecting mental health,” the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA) warned Thursday.
A total of 1.4 million people – of Gaza’s population of more than 2 million – have been displaced since October 7, with almost 629,000 people living in UN shelters, OCHA said. Half of Gaza’s population are children.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza said Wednesday it will have to halt aid operations within a day if fuel is not delivered, saying it would mark the end of a “lifeline” for civilians.
UNRWA director for Gaza Tom White told CNN that aid workers would have to decide what aspects of life-saving aid they could and could not provide to civilians.
“Do we provide fuel for desalination plants for drinking water? Can we provide fuel to hospitals? Can we provide the essential fuel that is currently producing the bread that is feeding people in Gaza?” he said.
Nearly three weeks since the outbreak of fighting, the UN’s Security Council remains divided on how to proceed with the crisis. Two differing resolutions on the matter, introduced by the US and Russia, both failed to pass on Wednesday.
The draft resolution from the US called for “humanitarian pauses,” not a ceasefire, to allow for aid to reach Gazan civilians. The US previously vetoed a Brazilian draft calling for a humanitarian pause.
The European Union may also lean toward calling for a “short humanitarian pause” in Gaza after leaders meet on Thursday, a senior diplomat said. Several leaders have already voiced some version of this, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the foreign ministers of Ireland and Slovenia.
Meanwhile in Moscow, representatives from Hamas held talks with a senior Russian foreign ministry official on Thursday, according to Russian state media TASS and a statement from Hamas. TASS said the discussions centered on the release of hostages held by Hamas and the evacuation of Russian citizens from Gaza.
The Hamas delegation praised the position of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the efforts of Russian diplomacy, according to the militant group’s statement. Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau, and Basem Naim, another senior Gaza-based Hamas leader, were part of the delegation which met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov, it also said.
Qatar, which is helping to mediate with Egypt, US, Israel and Hamas, is hopeful for a breakthrough soon on negotiations to release hostages held by the militant group, the prime minister and foreign minister said Wednesday.
The hostage crisis is a truly international one.
Israel’s government press office said 135 hostages – more than half of those being held by Hamas – hold foreign passports from 25 different countries.
They include 54 Thai nationals, 15 Argentinians, and 12 citizens from Germany and the US.
Four hostages – two American and two Israeli – have been freed so far. Talks to secure the release of the rest of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza are ongoing, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.
US President Joe Biden said Wednesday he told Netanyahu that if it’s possible to secure the release of hostages in Gaza ahead of an Israeli ground invasion, he should do so.
But Biden said flatly “no” when asked whether he’d sought assurances from his Israeli counterpart that he would hold off on a ground invasion while the hostages remain in custody.