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Israeli PM Netanyahu vows to “dismantle” Hamas, as Gaza feels the weight of the second phase of war

Israeli PM Netanyahu vows to "dismantle" Hamas, as Gaza feels the weight of the second phase of war

The escalation of violence has led to a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza with over 7,700 people dead since the conflict began on October 7

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a nationally televised address on Saturday night that Israel is now in the second phase of its war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas, announcing a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“We want to dismantle Hamas and bring hostages home,” Netanyahu said, referring to the more than 200 people being held as hostages in Gaza since a Hamas-led attack on Israel three weeks ago. During the October 7 attack, more than 1,400 people were slain in Israel, including at least 310 soldiers.

Netanyahu called the conflict Israel’s “second war for independence” and vowed that the country will not surrender nor withdraw from Gaza until its goal of eliminating Hamas is complete. “It will be long and difficult,” he added. “We are ready.”

An Israeli mobile artillery unit is seen in a position near the Israel-Gaza border, in Israel, on Saturday. (Tsafrir Abayov/The Associated Press)

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant signaled a gradual escalation towards what is expected to evolve into an all-out ground offensive in northern Gaza. “Last evening, the ground shook in Gaza. We attacked above ground and underground,” Gallant said. “The campaign will continue until further notice.”

Meanwhile, the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. On Friday, phone and internet services were cut, leaving the 2.3 million people in the besieged enclave largely cut off from the outside world. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza has risen to just over 7,700 people since October 7, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the territory’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. A majority of those killed have been women and minors.

The lack of communications has also paralyzed Gaza’s health network. An estimated 1,700 people remain trapped beneath the rubble, and with no way to call for help, emergency teams are resorting to chasing the sounds of artillery barrages and airstrikes to search for people in need.

United Nations, United States, Canada, and Others Call for 'Humanitarian Pause' in Israel-Hamas Conflict

A woman reacts next to the rubble of a building following an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

In a post on X, UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings said that without phone lines and internet, hospitals and aid operations would be unable to operate. The Red Crescent reported that it could not contact medical teams and that residents could no longer call ambulances.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced on Saturday that the company’s Starlink will support communication links in Gaza with “internationally recognized aid organizations.” However, it is unclear who has authority for ground links in Gaza, and no terminal has requested a connection in the area.

On the Lebanese front, Israel’s military said it had intercepted a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones and struck Hezbollah military infrastructure in Lebanon in response to “several anti-tank missile and mortar shell launches from Lebanese territory toward Israel.” This is the biggest flare-up on the Lebanese-Israeli frontier since the two sides fought a war in 2006.

The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon has urged Americans in the country to “leave now, while commercial flights remain available.” The Canadian government has issued a similar message to its citizens in Lebanon.

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