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Israel Expands Ground Operations Against Hamas

Israel expanded ground operations in Gaza and massively escalated airstrikes Friday as a spokesperson said the Hamas terrorist group will start receiving “payback” from Israel as the evening approaches.

Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel is starting payback for Hamas’ bloody Oct. 7 incursion, where militants killed 1,400 Israelis and took more than 220 people hostage, according to Reuters. Later on Friday, Hamas’ military wing, the Al Qassem Brigades, said fighting had broken out between Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops and Hamas militants, AFP reported.

Israel’s War Cabinet decided to expand operations after negotiations with Hamas to release the prisoners reached an impasse, Axios reported, citing Israeli officials.

IDF spokesperson Peter Lerner said the expanded operations are not the anticipated ground invasion in an interview with ABC News late Friday afternoon eastern time.

“We are conducting our sweep and clear activities in order to create better conditions for optimal operational conditions on the ground,” Lerner said, adding that Israel has staged raids into Gaza in recent days.

Intense bombardments on Friday blasted internet connection in Gaza and caused the largest single outage since the war broke out on Oct. 7, Netblocks, an internet monitoring service, confirmed, The Washington Post reported.

The U.N. General Assembly called for an immediate ceasefire in a resolution Friday afternoon, according to Fox News. Fourteen countries voted against the resolution, including the U.S. and Israel.

In a statement, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said that Israel launched heightened air attacks on Gaza and is “expanding” ground activity Friday evening local time, which was early afternoon on the American East coast.

“In recent hours we have increased the attacks in Gaza. The Air Force widely attacks underground targets and terrorist infrastructure, very significantly. In continuation of the offensive activity we carried out in the last few days, the ground forces are expanding the ground activity this evening,” Hagari said.

The Biden administration is pressuring Israel to call off a full ground invasion in favor of smaller-scale surgical operations at designated targets, The Washington Post reported, citing five U.S. officials. The planned ground invasion could derail talks over hostages and provoke a wider war in the region.

Israel’s Air Force confirmed that it intercepted a drone heading toward Israel over the Red Sea, just hours after another drone crashed into a town in Egypt, according to the Times of Israel. Hagari said the unmanned flying weapons originated from “the Red Sea area,” possibly a reference to the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

Meanwhile, two more attacks on U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Syria were recorded Friday after the U.S. conducted retaliatory airstrikes against buildings affiliated with Iran and its regional proxy groups. American military personnel shot done one suicide drone near al-Assad Air Base in Iraq, according to ABC News, citing U.S. officials.

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