Israel intensifies Gaza attacks; Hamas retaliates as Netanyahu foresees lengthy conflict

Israeli jets stepped up strikes in central Gaza on Sunday, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled a protracted duration for the conflict, stating it would take “many more months” to conclude. These ongoing operations have resulted in significant casualties and widespread destruction in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s remarks imply an unyielding stance in the campaign, which has seen substantial destruction in Gaza and raised questions about the feasibility of a two-state solution, particularly with his intention to reinforce control over Gaza’s border with Egypt.

In a strategic shift, the Israeli military announced the release of some reservists drafted for the Gaza operation. This decision aims to alleviate economic pressures as the country braces for an extended war.

Air raids in Gaza’s central regions, specifically al-Maghazi and al-Bureij, have resulted in numerous fatalities, including 10 people from a single household. The escalating violence is pushing residents towards Rafah, near the Egyptian border, amidst clashes involving Israeli tanks and Hamas militants.

Overnight, rockets launched from Gaza targeted central Israel, activating sirens across central and southern regions. Israeli media reported multiple interceptions, with no direct hits confirmed.

Hamas’ military wing stated these rocket attacks were in retaliation for the “massacres against civilians” in Gaza.

Footage from the Red Crescent showed rescue efforts amid rubble in central Gaza, where an airstrike in the village of al-Mughraqa killed six people, according to health officials. Another strike in Khan Younis resulted in additional casualties.

As 2023 ends, Gazans, like 57-year-old Zainab Khalil from Rafah, express despair and little hope for the new year amidst ongoing Israeli missile and tank shell attacks.

Israel’s military objective remains the eradication of Hamas, the militant group responsible for an unexpected cross-border attack on Israeli towns on October 7, resulting in 1,200 deaths, primarily civilians, and the capture of 240 hostages.

According to Hamas-run Gaza health authorities, Israel’s air and artillery strikes have claimed over 21,800 lives, with many more potentially buried in the rubble. The conflict has displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. The Palestinian health ministry states that a majority of the deceased are women and minors, though Israel disputes these figures and claims to have eliminated 8,000 combatants.

Following the October 7 attack, Israel severely restricted food, fuel, and medicine access to Gaza. However, Israel announced its readiness to allow direct aid shipments to Gaza, subject to security checks in Cyprus.

Gemma Connell of the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA highlighted the dire situation of thousands fleeing to Rafah with no belongings or shelter, expressing concern over the potential rise in fatalities due to both the offensive and deplorable living conditions.