Israeli tanks moved into Gaza overnight, in what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) described as a “targeted raid.” The move is widely seen as paving the way for a long-expected ground invasion of the Strip, something that Israel apparently agreed to temporarily delay, allowing the United States to deploy additional air defense assets to protect its troops in the region. You can read more about that development — and our previous coverage of the conflict — here.
“IDF forces under the command of the Givati Brigade tonight carried out a targeted raid using tanks in the territory of the northern Gaza Strip, as part of the preparation of the area for the next stages of combat,” the IDF said. “As part of the activity, the forces located and attacked many terrorists, destroyed terrorist infrastructures, anti-tank positions, and carried out work to organize the area. The troops left the area at the end of the mission.”
The Givati Brigade, which is part of the 162nd Armored Division, is reported to have returned from the raid without having suffered any casualties.
A video released by the IDF shows armored vehicles, including at least a dozen Merkava main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles — some with ‘cope cage’ overhead anti-drone protection — moving through a sandy border zone. The column includes an armored bulldozer that is seen demolishing part of a raised bank. The vehicles cross through an opening in the Gaza border wall and tanks open fire on a nearby built-up area. Explosions are seen ripping through several buildings.
“Through the raid, we eliminated terrorists, neutralized threats, dismantled explosives, neutralized ambushes, in order to enable the next stages of the war for the ground forces,” said Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.
While this is not the first time that the IDF has entered Gaza since the latest conflict began on October 7, it certainly appears to be the most significant in terms of scale. Israel’s Army Radio said the overnight action was the biggest incursion of the current war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night that Israel was “preparing for a ground invasion” of Gaza.
“All Hamas members are dead men,” Netanyahu said in a televised address. “Above ground, underground, in Gaza, and outside Gaza.”
In other comments, Netanyahu spoke of Israel “raining down hellfire” on Gaza and noted that a major ground offensive was still going to happen.
“I cannot say when, how or how many, nor all the elements that we are taking into account, of which most are not known to the public,” he said.
Regardless, with Israeli tanks and troops massed on the border with Gaza, it seems that the countdown to that invasion is now very much on. Reports suggest that Israel has also called up 360,000 reservists.
Photos released today by Getty Images show that the Israeli Air Force is closely monitoring the situation in Gaza, with photos of a Nachshon Shavit surveillance aircraft operating over the border. As you can read about here, the Nachshon Shavit is primarily a signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform, able to eavesdrop on Hamas communications, for example. The Shavit can also detect emissions from threats, including hostile radars and drones, which can then be targeted.