October 30, 2023
WASHINGTON – Israeli armored columns pushed into the northern Gaza Strip on Monday in their latest incursion yet amid the current war, just days after a senior American military advisor returned home to the United States.
During a ground raid launched overnight, the IDF said it rescued a female Israeli soldier held hostage by Palestinian militants in the enclave. Also on Monday, Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades claimed its forces had repelled an Israeli incursion in eastern Gaza Strip and also fought Israeli forces in the enclave’s north.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday announced the IDF had begun sending raids into the Gaza Strip on Friday evening as part of the “second phase” of its war to depose Hamas, which he said would likely be “long and difficult.”
Netanyahu’s announcement followed reports of prior, smaller-scale raids into the enclave by the IDF as American military advisers led by two-star US Marine Corps general James Glynn sought to provide Israeli commanders with insights learned during the US-led campaigns in Syria and Iraq.
Glynn returned to the US late last week, senior Pentagon officials confirmed.
“Make no mistake: what is, has or will unfold in Gaza is purely an Israeli decision,” the US Marine Corps’ top general, Eric Smith, told a gathering of reporters in Washington on Friday evening.
“We are not planning with them,” Smith said, describing the advisory mission as “a professional military exchange.”
Israel declared war and kicked off waves of aerial bombardment of the Palestinian enclave earlier this month after Hamas killed at least 1,400 people across southern Israel on Oct. 7 in the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.
Reuters on Monday cited local witnesses as saying Israeli tanks reached Gaza’s main north-south artery, Salahudeen road, in an ostensible bid to stem the flow of fighters and supplies to Gaza City. The IDF has not confirmed details of the operation.
Netanyahu told reporters on Monday that IDF ground operations could add to pressure on Hamas to release more of the estimated 239 hostages it is believed to hold in the enclave.
“We think that this method stands a chance,” the Israeli prime minister said.
Meanwhile, suspected Iran-backed militias continued to launch rocket and drone attacks targeting US bases in Syria and one in Iraq over the weekend, despite US airstrikes designed to halt the attacks.
The US scrambled F-15s and F-16s late last week to destroy two facilities used by the militias and by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in eastern Syria near Albukamal. A senior US defense official told reporters Monday that the Pentagon believed no personnel were killed in those strikes.
US and coalition bases have come under 24 separate drone and rocket attacks since Oct. 17, defense officials said. US troops at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s Anbar province came under rocket barrage again on Monday evening, though no personnel were hurt.
Hadi al-Amiri, head of Iraq’s Badr organization, an umbrella group for several Iran-backed factions, called on the roughly 2,500 US troops to leave Iraq in a public statement on Monday, suggesting further attacks would result if they do not.
Pentagon officials have been in close contact with Iraqi counterparts since the attacks resumed in a bid to prevent further incidents.
Most of the attacks were “unsuccessful,” the senior US defense official said Monday, though at least 21 personnel have sustained minor injuries, most in separate attacks on the Al-Tanf garrison in Syria and at Iraq’s al-Asad airbase.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have also continued their attacks amid Israel’s war in Gaza, breaking more than a year of de-facto ceasefire with Saudi Arabia and its allies. On Monday, Bloomberg reported four Saudi military personnel died last week as a result of a firefight with Houthi forces in the southern border province of Jazan.
Jordanian Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hiyari called on Washington to send Patriot air defense systems to protect its territory in statements aired on state television over the weekend.
The Pentagon has dispatched an undisclosed number of additional Patriot batteries and a THAAD anti-ballistic missile system to the region, but US officials said they will primarily be sent to protect American personnel.
“Iran’s objective for a long time has been to force a withdrawal of the US military from the region. What I would note is, we’re still there,” the US official said.
US military advisors depart Israel, focus on containing blowback from Gaza war
October 30, 2023