May 26, 2024

Israel Launches Ground Offensive in Gaza as US Raises Concerns Over Civilian Casualties

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Dec 8, 2023

Israel has launched a major ground offensive in Gaza, further escalating fighting against Palestinian militant groups that has left over 200 dead so far. The US is raising urgent concerns over the civilian death toll and displacement in Gaza, warning Israel of defeats if it fails to protect noncombatants.

Israel Sends Ground Troops into Gaza, Warns Civilians to Evacuate

After over a week of airstrikes between Israel and Gaza militant groups, Israel has sent ground forces into Gaza Thursday night. The Israeli military told Gazans living near the border to evacuate, warning “there is a high possibility that civilians who remain in the area will be harmed.”

This ground campaign expands Israel’s Operation Dawn Breaker against Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other groups firing rockets from Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said ground troops are targeting a Hamas cyber operational center in Khan Younis.

Over 200 Palestinians have died so far, including whole families and over 60 children, Gaza health officials report. At least 20 Israelis have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israeli tanks along Gaza border

Israeli tanks poised along Gaza border before ground offensive. Source: Jerusalem Post

The UN Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss a draft resolution for an immediate Gaza ceasefire. The US is likely to block the resolution, wanting Israel to have more time to degrade militant groups’ capabilities further first.

US Raises “Deep Concerns” Over Growing Civilian Toll

The US is issuing its strongest warnings yet to Israel over civilian casualties, while still defending Israel’s right to self-defense against rocket attacks.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US has “deep concerns” about civilian loss of life and the expansion of displacement. He warned there is a “huge gap” between Israel’s stated intentions to avoid civilian casualties and the “very alarming” actual results on the ground:

“We have been very clear that Israel has an absolute right to defend itself against rocket attacks and against terrorist groups…that have been indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians for weeks now. That is the right of self-defense. At the same time, we have deep concerns about the loss of innocent civilian life and the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

The Pentagon echoed those worries, saying “the battlefield reality is civilians are becoming trapped and they’re suffering grievously.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Israel risks “strategic defeats” if the growing toll on civilians undermines international support:

“Civilians in Gaza are suffering horribly and innocent civilians are being killed. And we’ve been very clear that civilians are not a target.”

“If the population were to turn against Israel, then strategically they would start losing that conflict. So our message was meant to enhance Israel’s capability for success.”

Death Toll in Gaza Surpasses 700

According to Palestinian health officials, over 700 Palestinians have now died in the fighting, including entire families wiped out in Israeli strikes on residential buildings. Over 4,000 have been wounded.

The UN warns Gaza’s healthcare system is overwhelmed trying to handle the staggering influx of casualties and dwindling medical supplies.

Israel insists civilian structures are not the target, and that it warns inhabitants ahead of strikes on buildings with military purposes. But Palestinians say there is minimal time to evacuate before large residential towers are leveled.

Rights groups accuse Israel of apparent war crimes for the high civilian death toll relative to militants killed. They demand accountability for specific strikes that seem to show little regard for civilian life.

130,000 Gazans Displaced So Far

At least 130,000 Gazans have fled their homes so far, according to UN estimates. Israel’s expanding ground offensive in Gaza’s north will likely displace thousands more.

US officials have warned Israel not to repeat the grave humanitarian fallout of its three-week ground operation during the 2008-2009 war, which displaced up to 500,000 Gazans.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Tuesday:

“We are concerned about the potential for expanded displacement and suffering of ordinary Palestinians. We have a concern about the message that could be sent if there was a repeat of the events of 2008-2009.”

With nowhere to flee the narrow Gaza strip, most displaced Gazans are sheltering in already severely overcrowded UN schools.

Israel Determined to Continue Operation

Despite US warnings, Israel remains determined to continue its Gaza operation until its goals for degrading militant groups are met. Those goals likely require at least several more weeks of fighting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Security Cabinet Friday, vowing “the operation will continue for as long as necessary” to bring “long term quiet” from Gaza militant groups.

But the US wants the bulk of fighting wrapped up within roughly a month, aiming to balance allowing Israel’s self-defense while preventing a worsening humanitarian crisis that could turn international opinion, reports The Times of London.

One unnamed Israeli minister pushed back against US pressure, saying the operation would last “as long as it takes, not what the Americans determine.”

Further Escalation Still Possible

If the current air and ground campaign fails to halt rocket fire from Gaza soon, Israel may launch even more aggressive operations.

One option reportedly still under consideration is a threatened coastal amphibious assault to conquer Gaza City in effort to topple the Hamas government controlling it, reports The Cradle.

Israel could also cut power and water to Gaza’s 2 million residents to pressure Hamas. But the US strongly opposes further steps that would worsen Gaza’s humanitarian catastrophe.

For now Israel is holding back from such drastic measures and occupying Gaza City, hoping its current campaign will be sufficient to get militants to finally agree to a long-term ceasefire.

Hamas Vows to Fight ‘Until the End’

The ruling Hamas militant group in Gaza is defiant, declaring it will resist “until the last breath” even against a possible amphibious assault on Gaza City. “We will fight until the end,” vows senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri.

Hamas still possesses substantial rocket arsenals and urban combat capabilities making a conquest of Gaza treacherous for Israeli forces. A lengthy occupation would also risk heavy IDF casualties and increase international condemnation of Israel.

But Hamas is under tremendous domestic pressure to halt the swelling civilian death toll, especially after errant Palestinian rockets also killed over 20 Gazans. Egypt and Qatar are intensely negotiating with Hamas leaders in hiding to try to broker an imminent ceasefire.

Ceasefire Seen as Increasingly Urgent

With over 900 dead in Gaza so far, a ceasefire is seen as increasingly urgent by most nations. But differences remain on sequencing the halt in violence versus Gaza’s reconstruction.

The US insists Israel must retain the right to resume strikes if militants restart hostilities. But the Palestinian Authority and Arab states want Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza first to start rebuilding.

In terms of Gaza’s rehabilitation, the US has already committed an initial $250 million. But a donors conference led by Europe aims to raise over $2 billion once ceasefire terms are set. Rebuilding Gaza — again —while preventing militant groups from restocking their arsenals will pose a monumental challenge.

Impacts So Far of 2023 Israel-Hamas War
~900 Palestinians killed, including 250 children
32 Israelis killed
4,500 Palestinians injured
130,000 Palestinians displaced
Healthcare system overwhelmed
$250 million initial US commitment to rebuild Gaza

Key impacts and pledges so far in 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict

Israel’s Support in US Facing Growing Scrutiny

Israel still enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington, recently boosted by over $2 billion in emergency military aid approved for Israel’s Iron Dome and new laser-based missile defense systems.

But this latest Gaza war is exposing fissures among Democrats in maintaining near-unconditional US backing for Israel despite recurring civilian catastrophes critics label as war crimes.

Growing progressive figures such as the “Squad” of House members have been forcefully questioning sending any additional blank check military aid that could enable operations causing so much humanitarian suffering.

While still a minority view, this faction wants strict oversight on how US weapons are used by Israel and threatens to stall military funding bills lacking accountability stipulations. They point to apparent violations of US laws against using American arms for human rights abuses.

Mainstream Democrats remain largely supportive of Israel’s security needs. But the severe anguish in Gaza is pushing more to at least call for a ceasefire and warn Israel about inflicting further civilian harm that looks disproportionate regardless of Hamas provocations.

Most analysts see US diplomatic cover for Israel eroding at the UN Security Council and other world bodies criticizing Israeli military excesses and the humanitarian crisis. These reputational hits over time could sway US public opinion on reducing carte blanche support for Israel’s offensive operations against militants embedded in civilian areas like Gaza.

US Balancing Competing Interests

The White House faces the excruciating challenge of balancing support for Israel’s core security while preventing a moral outrage and strategic disaster in Gaza that could damage America’s global standing.

Officials state the administration deplores the loss of innocent life in Gaza and wants the fighting halted urgently. But they maintain Israel cannot be denied the right to destroy capabilities attacking its cities and must retain freedom-of-action against extremists calling for Israel’s very destruction.

It is a nearly impossible needle to thread morally and politically. The war’s rising toll threatens America’s interests on all sides no matter the outcome, critics contend.

For now the Biden team pleads it is working intensely behind the scenes with maximum leverage on Israel out of public view. Despite increasing congressional misgivings, major shifts in decades of staunch US backing for Israeli military operations are unlikely.

But the White House faces growing calls to take a more even-handed approach condemning actions seen as excessive on both sides, rather than clinging to the stance of “Israel right or wrong” amid the recurring bloodshed.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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