U.S. fighter jets hit Syrian targets
Israeli forces backed by fighter jets and drones carried out a second ground raid into Gaza in as many days and struck targets on the outskirts of Gaza City, the military said Friday, as it prepares for a widely expected ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory.
U.S. warplanes meanwhile struck targets in eastern Syria that the Pentagon said were linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard after a string of attacks on U.S. forces by Iran-backed fighters, adding to the already high regional tensions fuelled by the three-week-old Gaza war.
The Israeli military said ground forces raided inside Gaza, striking dozens of militant targets over the past 24 hours. It said aircraft and artillery bombed targets in Shijaiyah, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Gaza City that was the scene of a bloody urban battle in the 2014 Gaza war.
Israel's military said the soldiers left the territory without suffering any casualties. It reported an earlier raid into northern Gaza early Thursday, saying ground forces battled militants and struck anti-tank missile firing positions in an operation that lasted hours.
The Palestinian death toll has soared past 7,000 as Israel has carried out waves of devastating airstrikes in response to a bloody Hamas incursion into southern Israel on Oct. 7. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which tracks the toll, released a detailed list of names and ID numbers on Thursday.
The toll includes more than 2,900 minors and more than 1,500 women. Reuters could not independently verify the tolls.
Israel says Hamas killed some 1,400 people including children, and took more than 200 hostages, some of them infants and older adults.
U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the strikes on the two facilities used by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and militia groups that it backs, the Pentagon said, warning the U.S. will take additional measures if attacks by Iran's proxies continue.
U.S. says Iran-backed forces attacked its troops
Officials say U.S. and coalition troops have been attacked at least 19 times in Iraq and in Syria by Iran-backed forces in the past week. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah are all backed by Tehran.
"These Iranian-backed attacks against U.S. forces are unacceptable and must stop," U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement,
Biden sent a rare message to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warning Tehran against targeting U.S. personnel in the Middle East, the White House said earlier on Thursday.
"What we want is for Iran to take very specific actions, to direct its militias and proxies to stand down," a senior U.S. defence official said.
The United States did not co-ordinate the air strikes with Israel, the official added. The United States has sent warships and fighter aircraft to the region over the last three weeks. On Thursday, the Pentagon said about 900 more U.S. troops have arrived in the Middle East or are heading there to bolster air defences for U.S. personnel.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said at the United Nations Thursday that if Israel's offensive against Hamas did not stop, the United States will "not be spared from this fire."
UN votes on ceasefire resolution
As the plight of Palestinian civilians grows more desperate, the issue of humanitarian pauses or ceasefire agreements in the Hamas-run coastal enclave will come before the 193-member UN General Assembly on Friday in a draft resolution submitted by Arab states calling for a ceasefire.
Unlike in the Security Council where resolutions on Gaza aid failed this week, no country holds a veto in the General Assembly. Resolutions are non-binding, but carry political weight.
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More than 613,000 people were estimated to have been made homeless by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and were being sheltered by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.
In Brussels on Thursday, the 27 leaders of the EU reached a compromise declaration after days of wrangling, expressing the "gravest concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza."
Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters in Brussels on Thursday he proposed to fellow European Union leaders the establishment of a "humanitarian aid corridor" linking Cyprus' main port of Limassol to Gaza, which he discussed with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
Gaza, Egyptian resort town hit
Israel said on Friday military raids into Gaza were preparing "the next stage of the operation," amid fears that a ground invasion of the Palestinian enclave could spark a wider Middle East conflict.
Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli troops in at least two areas of the Gaza Strip on Friday, Hamas-affiliated media reported. Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the reports.
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Israel said on Friday that its fighter jets had struck three senior Hamas operatives who played significant roles in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
A missile launched as part of fighting between Hamas and Israel struck an Egyptian resort town about 220 kilometres from the Gaza Strip early on Friday, Egypt's Al Qahera News reported, citing sources.
The missile hit a medical facility in Taba, injuring at least six people, Al Qahera reported.
Almost half of Israelis want to hold off on any invasion of Gaza, according to a poll published on Friday.
Asked if the military should immediately escalate to a large-scale ground offensive, 29 per cent of Israelis agreed while 49 per cent said "it would be better to wait" and 22 per cent were undecided, the poll published in the Maariv newspaper said.
With files from Reuters
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