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Israeli tanks in overnight Gaza raid ahead of ‘next stage’

AFP – Israel sent tanks, troops and armoured bulldozers into the Gaza Strip in a “targeted raid” overnight that destroyed multiple sites before withdrawing from the Hamas-run territory, the army said yesterday.

Black smoke billowed into the night sky after a blast in the grainy night-vision footage the military released hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared preparations for a ground war were underway.

On the 20th day of Israel’s deadliest Gaza war yet, that has already killed thousands, the army said its forces had hit “numerous terrorist cells, infrastructure and anti-tank missile launch posts”.

The operation in northern Gaza came in “preparation for the next stages of combat”, it said, adding that the soldiers had “returned to Israeli territory”.

The black-and-white video showed a column of armoured vehicles moving near Gaza’s border fence. Other footage appeared to show an air strike and buildings being struck with munitions, sending debris flying high into the air.

Screen grab shows a targeted raid in northern Gaza with tanks and infantry. PHOTO: AFP

The scenario has further heightened international alarm as shock is growing about the scale of human suffering inside the besieged territory where Israel has cut off most water, food, fuel and other basic supplies.

In southern Gaza, a bereaved Palestinian woman, Umm Omar al-Khaldi, recounted to AFP how she witnessed her neighbours being killed in an Israeli strike that reduced the house to rubble, with many feared buried beneath.

“We saw them getting bombarded – the children got bombarded while their mother was hugging them,” the woman said, desperately pleading for help from the outside world.

The war’s surging death toll is by far the highest since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the small coastal territory in 2005 – a period that has seen four previous Gaza wars.

Entire neighbourhoods have been razed, surgeons are operating without anaesthetic on some of the wounded, and ice-cream trucks have become makeshift morgues.

In chaotic scenes, volunteer emergency crew and neighbours have clawed, sometimes with their bare hands, through broken concrete and sand to pull out civilian casualties.

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