Israel Latest: Ground Assault May Be Extended to South Gaza

Israel Latest: Ground Assault May Be Extended to South Gaza

Israel said its ground offensive in the north of the Gaza Strip may be expanded to the south of the enclave, where many Palestinians have sought refuge after being urged to evacuate there by the Israeli military.

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(Bloomberg) — Israel said its ground offensive in the north of the Gaza Strip may be expanded to the south of the enclave, where many Palestinians have sought refuge after being urged to evacuate there by the Israeli military.

Right-wing politicians in Israel’s ruling coalition criticized the war cabinet’s decision to allow fuel into Gaza from Egypt, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich saying it was “like giving oxygen to the enemy.” The government had been reluctant to allow in any fuel — arguing Hamas would use it for military operations — but has come under intense pressure from the US and others to ease its restrictions.

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US President Joe Biden spoke to the ruler of Qatar, which has mediated with Hamas, in a push to get more hostages held by the group released. Officials from Hamas — designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union — said the death toll in Gaza has passed 12,000 since the war began on Oct. 7.

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For more stories on the Israel-Hamas war, click here.

Israel Strikes ‘Terrorist’ Hideout in West Bank (8:40 a.m.)

The Israeli military said it “eliminated several terrorists” in the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight.

In a joint operation with Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence service, troops struck a “hideout apartment” and killed Mohammad Zahed. The military said he was a “key terrorist figure” who planned more attacks on Israel. None of the claims could be immediately verified by Bloomberg.

Iraqi Militias Claim Three More Attacks on US Bases, Says ISW (5 a.m.)

“The Islamic Resistance in Iraq — a coalition of Iranian-backed Iraqi militias — conducted three attacks targeting US positions in Iraq and Syria on Nov. 17,” said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

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The alleged attacks were on bases in northeastern Syria and in Iraq.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq and its affiliates have claimed 81 attacks targeting US forces in the Middle East since the conflict began, according to ISW.

IMF Says Israel-Gaza War Poses Problems for Neighboring Countries: Reuters (3:40 a.m.)

The Israel-Hamas conflict is “devastating” Gaza’s population and economy and also posing difficulties for neighboring countries Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan through the loss of tourism and higher energy costs, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told Reuters on the sidelines of the APEC Summit.

The IMF is “seriously considering” a possible augmentation of Egypt’s $3 billion loan program due to economic difficulties posed by the Israel-Hamas war, she said.

White House Offers Condolences Over UN Deaths (12:35 a.m.) 

A White House national security advisor offered condolences to the head of a United Nations relief agency over the deaths of 103 staff since the war began on Oct. 7.

Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, in a call with Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, also discussed the situation in Gaza and the “critical importance of protecting civilians, including UN staff and other aid workers, and continuing to mitigate any potential aid diversion to Hamas,” according to a White House statement.  

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Telecoms Restored in Part of Gaza as Fuel Arrives (10:15 p.m.)

The main telecommunications provider in Gaza said it was able to restore services in part of the strip, after receiving a delivery of fuel from the UN aid agency that was permitted by Israel. Internet and mobile services had been down since Thursday, effectively leaving Gazans in a total communication blackout.

Israel’s war cabinet earlier approved the entry of two diesel tankers a day into Gaza, saying the aim is to support the water and sewage system and prevent the outbreak of disease. Israel has been reluctant to allow fuel in because it says Hamas uses it for military operations. Far-right parties in the ruling coalition criticized the decision.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who heads an ultra-nationalist party, said it was “like giving oxygen to the enemy.” 

Israel Says Offensive May Extend to Southern Gaza (9:15 p.m.)

Israel’s main army spokesman said the military could extend its attack on Hamas to southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled from the current fighting that’s mostly confined to the northern part of the strip.

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Efforts to destroy Hamas “will happen every place where Hamas is, and Hamas is also in the south of Gaza,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing. Army radio said five Israelis were wounded in a barrage of rockets fired from southern Gaza at Tel Aviv and surrounding areas.

Biden Discusses Hostage Efforts With Qatar Ruler (8:40 p.m.)

US President Joe Biden spoke with Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as the countries try to broker a deal for the release of hostages in Gaza. The leaders discussed that effort as well as a push to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance and fuel to Palestinians, the White House said.

Israel-Hamas War Escalation Puts Qatar’s Clout to the Test

Qatar has hosted the political leadership of Hamas and was involved in negotiations that led to the release of a few hostages earlier in the conflict.

Gaza Death Toll Passes 12,000, Hamas Officials Say (8:10 p.m.)

The Hamas-run government media office in Gaza said more than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7, when the conflict began. 

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In a press briefing, the agency said 3,750 people are also reportedly stranded under the rubble of destroyed buildings, or are missing. Because of a communication blackout and logistical difficulties, the health ministry in Gaza has been unable to update the death toll for five days.

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Israel Says No Food Shortage in Gaza, More Aid to Come (7:45 p.m.)

Gaza’s food reserves are “sufficient for the near-term” and Israel will let more aid in when needed as requested by the UN, Col. Elad Goren – an official at the Defense Ministry unit that coordinates civilian issues with the Palestinian leadership — told reporters. Israel assesses the food situation in Gaza daily or even hourly, Goren said, adding that 140 aid trucks entered the strip on Thursday.

Aid agencies have warned that Gaza’s population faces severe food shortages. The UN’s World Food Program has said that civilians in Gaza are facing “the immediate possibility of starvation.”

Gaza Health-Care System Has Collapsed, Red Crescent Says (6:30 p.m.)

Gaza’s healthcare system has collapsed with 26 of the strip’s hospitals completely out of service, the Palestinian Red Crescent told Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV.

About nine medical facilities are still operating partially with some surgeons relying for light on the torches of mobile phones, the Red Crescent said. Only five ambulances continue to operate in the northern parts of the strip, it said.

Hezbollah Claims New Attacks on Israeli Military (5:15 p.m.)

Hezbollah caused casualties after shelling a mechanized unit of Israel’s special forces near Manara in northeast Israel along the border with Lebanon, Al-Manar television reported. The Lebanese armed group also targeted Israeli soldiers gathered near Metulla in the same area, the TV channel said.

Israel’s military said four civilians were injured from anti-tank missiles fired near Manara, which is a kibbutz. It also said it downed a drone from Lebanon near Metulla.

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