Israeli ground forces have now begun to attack Hamas in Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel Air Force (IAF) continues to carry out devastating air strikes early on Friday morning. 

Hamas has launched over 1,800 rockets towards Israel since Monday. Some of the rockets showcase a much longer range than many Israeli intelligence agencies believed possible. Yet, this is only a fraction of the 30,000 rockets and mortar projectiles Israeli intelligence estimates that Hamas has.

Many of Hamas’s rockets fell short of their destined targets and landed on their own people.

Israeli “Iron Dome” air defense missile systems have been very effective, shooting down about 90 percent of the targeted rockets. Israel claims that Hamas’s longer-range rockets are being built domestically with technical assistance from Iran. 

Lynchings and Mob Violence in Israeli Mixed Cities

The violence has taken an even uglier turn in mixed Arab-Israeli cities where mobs of Arabs and Jews have set about attacking people in lynching attacks. There is also widespread looting and arson. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the situation as  “anarchy.” He appealed  to both sides for an end to the “lynchings.”

“Nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs, and nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews,” Netanyahu said.

While visiting the mixed city of Lod on Thursday night, the Israeli prime minister added, “There is no greater threat now than these riots, and it is essential to bring back law and order with these means.” 

A building housing Hamas operations is engulfed in fireballs following an Israeli Air Force strike.
Huge fireballs erupt in Gaza as the Israeli Air Force conducts airstrikes against Hamas on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)

Hamas Will Take Years to Recover From the Airstrikes

The Israeli Air Force seems intent on eliminating senior Hamas leadership with drone and airstrikes. It has hit over 750 targets, eliminating at least 60 Hamas fighters including a reported 10 senior commanders.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza is rising alarmingly. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 103 Gazans were killed on Thursday, and 580 were injured.

The Jerusalem Post reported that it will take years for Hamas to recover from the airstrikes IAF conducted on its infrastructure on Thursday. Airstrikes hit government targets, Hamas’s central bank, a Hamas navy unit, as well the home of Iyad Tayeb, a top Hamas commander. The IDF said that Tayeb’s home was being used for terrorist purposes. IDF also conducted an airstrike on a Hamas defensive tunnel that was under a school.

Additionally, the IAF hit Hamas’s cyber unit, four high-rise buildings that were used for military purposes, and the “operational apartment” of the head of Hamas’s drone unit Samer Abu Daka. 

Airstrikes also leveled “operational apartments” used to direct recent rocket attacks towards Israeli cities. The apartments belonged to the deputy commander of Hamas’s Jabalya regiment in the northern Strip, as well as three company commanders in northern and central Gaza.

“The organization is losing everything,” IDF Spokesperson Brigadier General Hidai Zilberman said to the media.  

“Tonight we started destroying government targets in the Gaza Strip, such as central banks and internal security buildings. Hamas is beginning to discover cracks and there is pressure in the organization, even among the Gaza public who is losing its patience and sees these ruins on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr holiday,” he added.

The Israeli flag flies over Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam is seen in the background.
The Israeli flag flies over Jerusalem. The Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam is seen in the background. (AP photo)

Have Israeli Ground Forces Entered Gaza?

The use of Israeli ground forces in the attacks on Gaza is certainly an escalation. Nevertheless, the extent of their use hasn’t been determined. Specifically, it isn’t known if IDF ground forces have entered Gaza or if they are just firing their weapons from Israeli territory into Gaza. The IDF released just a cryptic one-sentence message on social media just after midnight, “IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.” 

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Israeli military spokesman, LTC Jonathan Conricus, released a statement that didn’t add any further information. “There are ground troops attacking in Gaza, together with air forces as well.”

President Joe Biden weighed in with a carefully crafted statement. The U.S. president said that he had not seen a “significant overreaction” from the Israeli government in response to Hamas’s rocket attacks. He added that Hamas had been “indiscriminately [firing] into population centers.”

President Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu at length on Thursday. In that call, Biden reportedly said Israel had “the right to defend itself.”