Israel bombed airports in Damascus and Aleppo following missile fire from Syria — a signal that tensions may escalate on Israel’s northern border as it prepares for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip.
The invasion, which is expected in the coming days, will follow Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel, which killed more than 1,300 people, largely civilians, and wounded thousands. Hamas is holding more than 100 people captive in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli figures.
Israeli troops have already entered Gaza in limited incursions aimed at retrieving hostages, and Haaretz reported on Saturday that one of those raids did return several bodies of hostages captured and killed by Hamas. The raid also attempted to find clues as to the whereabouts of other hostages.
The U.S. government says 29 of its citizens have been killed since Hamas’ invasion, according to the Times of Israel, and that 15 are unaccounted for. President Joe Biden spoke with the families of some missing Americans on Friday. The families of the missing have organized into a coalition to draw attention from their own government and beyond.
According to a report in the New York Times, Israel’s invasion — which has been delayed in part by overcast skies — will aim to eliminate the leadership of Hamas and will be focused on the terror group’s stronghold of Gaza City in the northern part of the territory. Israel told residents of northern Gaza, more than one million people, to relocate to the strip’s southern half, though Israel’s military said Hamas blocked civilians from leaving.
Israel has conducted airstrikes in Gaza since Hamas’ invasion, killing more than 2,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. Hamas and other terror groups have also shot rockets into Israel. Israel’s last ground invasion of the territory was in 2014.
On Saturday, Egypt began allowing foreigners to leave Gaza through a border crossing on the strip’s southern border, which Egypt controls. World leaders including Biden are urging an agreement to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza, days after Israel announced a “complete siege” that cut off electricity, food and fuel.
Israel’s bombing of Syria comes after two rockets were fired from Syria into the Golan Heights. The past week has seen other exchanges of fire across the Israeli-Lebanese border amid fears that Hezbollah, a terror group based in Lebanon, will begin attacking Israel’s northern border. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are funded by Iran. Three Hezbollah fighters and one Israeli soldier have been killed in the clashes, as has Issam Abdallah, a Reuters journalist.