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‘Nothing will stop Hamas elimination’: war pause is over

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2 December 2023, The Australian, by Cameron Stewart

Israel has vowed that nothing will stop it from destroying Hamas as war re-erupted in Gaza after a seven-day ceasefire which led to more than 100 hostages being released, but left about 140 still in the clutches of the terrorist group.

Israel has bowed to US pressure to put in a “clear plan” to minimise civilian casualties when it begins the second half of its military ­offensive into southern Gaza where as many as 1.7 million people are displaced after fleeing the battle-scarred north.

Israeli forces are expected to mount a major air and ground ­offensive in southern Gaza after destroying much of Hamas’ military capability in Gaza City and northern Gaza.

A heavy cloud of grey smoke rolled over northern Gaza, and ­apparent sounds of automatic weapons fire and explosions were heard within the first 90 minutes after the truce expired at 7am (4pm AEDT). Israel’s military said fighter jets were “currently striking” Hamas targets in Gaza, and airstrikes were reported in the north and south of the territory.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said 29 people had been killed in the hours after the ­pause ended.

The resumption of hostilities on Friday coincided with bombshell media reports that Israeli ­officials obtained Hamas’ detailed plans for the October 7 attack on Israel more than a year ago, but did not act on it because they believed the militants were incapable of carrying it out.

A 40-page Hamas terror attack plan, reviewed by The New York Times, detailed the same step-by-step attack plan as was used on ­October 7 to kill 1200 Israelis and take 240 hostages. The plan detailed how hundreds of Hamas militants would overwhelm the barriers along the Gaza-Israel border, attack nearby military posts and invade Israeli territory using paragliders and motorcycles. The failure of Israeli authorities to take the plan seriously is likely to fuel a growing political backlash in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli Defence Forces announced that the war had restarted after Hamas fired a rocket ­towards Israel about an hour ­before the ceasefire was due to ­expire, causing sirens to sound in southern Israel.

“Hamas violated the operational pause, and in addition, fired towards Israeli territory. The IDF has resumed combat against the Hamas terrorist organisation in the Gaza Strip,” the IDF said.

Speaking shortly before the ceasefire expired, Mr Netanyahu said Israel would not be deterred from achieving its goal of wiping out Hamas, “We have sworn, I have sworn, to eliminate Hamas,” he said. “Nothing will stop us.”

The resumption of hostilities came after negotiations with Hamas, brokered in part by Egypt and Qatar, failed to secure an agreement to release hostages for an eighth day of ceasefire. The original five-day ceasefire was ­extended by 24 hours on two occasions with 104 hostages eventually being released by Hamas, including 80 Israelis – mostly women and children – and 24 foreign ­nationals. In exchange, Israel ­released 240 Palestinians from its jails, mainly women and youths.

More than 130 Israeli hostages, mostly men, still remain in Gaza, but it is unclear how many of these are still alive or when negotiations might resume for their release.

The end of the ceasefire coincided with a visit to Israel by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he had secured agreement from Israel to take steps to ensure that civilians have greater protection during Israel’s expected offensive into southern Gaza.

“We made clear the imperative that before any operations go forward in southern Gaza that there be a clear plan in place that puts a premium on protecting civilians as well as sustaining and building on the humanitarian assistance that’s getting into Gaza,” Mr Blinken said. “And the Israeli government agreed with that approach.”  The high civilian death toll in Gaza, which the health ministry says now exceeds 15,000, has alarmed Israel’s allies and has led the US to pressure the Netanyahu government to be more targeted and surgical in its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

But Mr Blinken said the US continued to support Israel’s aim to destroy Hamas and acknowledged that protecting the lives of civilians in the conflict was ­“obviously challenging given the particular conditions that Israel has to deal with in getting to Hamas”.

Mr Blinken said Israel should designate “precise” areas in southern Gaza for civilians to shelter from combat.

Meanwhile, at least four people were killed and five others wounded in Jerusalem when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on commuters near a bus stop. The gunmen were brothers who Israel’s Shin Bet security service said were affiliated with Hamas and had previously been jailed for “terror activity”.

Mr Blinken said the attack was a reminder “of the threat from terrorism that Israel and Israelis face every single day”.

Late on Thursday six more Israelis, some holding dual ­nationality, were released, hours after two women were freed.

That brought the total freed on Thursday to eight, fewer than the 10 hostages a day the truce deal ­required Hamas to ­release.

Israel’s prison service said ­another 30 ­Palestinian prisoners – 23 minors and seven women – had later been freed.

Article link: https://todayspaper.theaustralian.com.au/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=13d45bba-13cc-4954-88d7-17647ca3d44f
Article source: The Australian | Cameron Stewart | 2.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000