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Israel ramps up military activity along Gaza border as ground invasion looms with troops exchanging machine gun fire with Hamas and dropping bombs – as top brass mulls building a huge DMZ surrounding the entire 40-mile Strip


Heavy machine gun fire was heard along the Israel-Gaza border in the early hours of Friday, after the green light was given for a ground invasion.

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, on Thursday visited troops positioned along the Gaza border, and told them that they would soon see the Palestinian enclave ‘from inside’.

An infantry commander in the IDF told DailyMail.com on Thursday that they were ready to invade, adding there was ‘a very high level of optimism’ among his troops.

Israel’s leaders are determined to rid Gaza of its Hamas rulers, even if that means going house-to-house in an operation that could last ‘years’.

They have refused to discuss plans for what will happen in Gaza after Hamas is toppled: Joe Biden, who was in Israel on Wednesday, asked about a post-Hamas Gaza, and was reportedly told that all resources were currently focused on the invasion, rather than the day after. 

But several Israeli politicians have referenced creating an expanded demilitarized zone around the border.

In the early hours of Friday, CNN‘s international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, reported seeing an increase of Israeli military activity around the Israel-Gaza border.

Israeli troops are seen patrolling near the border with Gaza on Thursday, ahead of the invasion

Israeli troops are seen patrolling near the border with Gaza on Thursday, ahead of the invasion

Israeli tanks are seen massed on the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday, ahead of an imminent invasion of the enclave

Israeli tanks are seen massed on the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday, ahead of an imminent invasion of the enclave

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Merkava tanks in a staging area in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Merkava tanks in a staging area in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday

Lt. Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an IDF spokesman, asked about the movements, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the military was ready, but would not announce their invasion in advance.

‘The reserves are ready, equipped, mission-oriented, and standing by for the next stage of our operations,’ said Conricus.

‘But at this time, of course, we will not advertise when, where, and how we will advance or do or enhance our military activities.’

Nir Barkat, Israel’s economy minister, confirmed that the invasion had been approved, and now it was up to the military to decide when to strike.

‘The Israeli government made a decision, gave a green light to the army to wipe them out and now it’s in the hands of the army,’ he said.

Troops were not expected to enter while foreign leaders were visiting.

Biden left Israel on Wednesday evening: Britain’s prime minister, Rishi Sunak, visited on Thursday morning, and then left for Saudi Arabia.

Biden addressed the American people from the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday night – only his second Oval Office address since becoming president.

He used his speech to explain why the Israeli war, and the Ukraine battle, were so crucial to the United States.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, posted a video on X of him rousing the troops, suggesting the invasion was imminent.

One veteran IDF commander told DailyMail.com that his troops were ready to ‘wipe Hamas out’.

Eliezer, a major in the IDF who goes by Ezzy, spoke to DailyMail.com from southern Israel

Eliezer, a major in the IDF who goes by Ezzy, spoke to DailyMail.com from southern Israel

Ezzy said that his troops were clear about their mission and ready for the order to go in to Gaza

Ezzy said that his troops were clear about their mission and ready for the order to go in to Gaza 

Israeli tanks are seen moving along the Gaza border on Thursday

Israeli tanks are seen moving along the Gaza border on Thursday

Eliezer, a major in the IDF who goes by Ezzy, and did not want to give his last name, is stationed in the south of Israel with the Golani Brigade – a group of reservists, often one of the first to be called up for active duty.

Ezzy signed up in 2004 and has served in the last four major wars in Israel, as an engineer, rabbi and commander.

The veteran IDF commander serves as a rabbi as well as an engineer in his unit

The veteran IDF commander serves as a rabbi as well as an engineer in his unit

His unit is designated to lead the forces of the Brigade – neutralizing mine fields, creating new pathways, capturing bridgeheads, and detonating explosives, he told DailyMail.com.

‘Without a question, this is different than any year,’ he said. ‘But morale is very high, very optimistic.’

Ezzy said the terror attacks of October 7 have galvanized his troops.

‘Obviously the first days we experienced the initial shock. Tons of mourning – but there wasn’t a lot of time to mourn,’ he said.

‘We didn’t know when we would go in, we thought we would go in to Gaza a lot earlier.’

Ezzy said there was a strong sense of purpose among the soldiers.

‘We are very close.

‘There’s a lot of brotherhood, and with time the spirit is going up – there’s a very high level of optimism.

‘I can’t remember Israel so united. More than ever I feel the support – we get messages.’

He said they appreciated international support for their war on Hamas.

‘I feel the world is united – it’s not just Jewish people, It’s anyone who understands there’s good and evil,’ he said.

‘They understand Israel is fighting for the good of this world – not just for Israel, but for light in this world.’

And he said his troops were ready to go in to Gaza.

‘The soldiers are trained – they want to go in,’ he said, adding that they were spending their days ‘sharpening our skills on the planning and physical level.’

‘They’re ready, but we take day by day,’ he added. We see every day that we don’t go in as a blessing because we can use it to train and to become better prepared.’

Ezzy said their mission was ‘clear’, describing the aims of the invasion as straightforward.

‘Hamas has to be wiped out,’ he said.

‘There’s no argument – it’s clear. We always knew what their (Hamas) intent was and now we know what their capabilities are.

‘We know we have to completely eradicate the enemy and that’s what we have to do. It’s unknown when exactly we will go in. We are taking it day by day.’

Israel’s agriculture minister, Avi Dichter – who was previously head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency — said on Thursday during a visit to the border town of Sderot that a buffer zone would be created within Gaza.

At present, Israel’s border security begins several hundred yards inside Israel’s territory.

Dichter said that needed to change, with a ‘no man’s land’ between the Gazan territory and Israel. 

‘It’s not that you started it from inside the Gaza Strip, as a buffer zone,’ he told a media briefing. 

‘You started it on the Israeli side — 50 to 100 metres inside. We understand it was a mistake, it has to be fixed.’

On October 7, Hamas launched its attacks from Gaza, bursting through the border fence.

Dichter said they would no longer allow Gazans to approach the fence – effectively squeezing Gaza’s territory. 

‘On the Gaza Strip all along, we will have a margin,’ he said.

‘And they will not be able to get in. It will be a fire zone. And no matter who you are, you will never be able to come close to the Israeli border.’ 

Israel previously maintained a buffer zone inside Gaza after it withdrew from the strip in 2005. But over the years the buffer was eroded.

Dichter said the width of any future buffer zone would have to be decided ‘according to the area, the needs of the military, according to the distance of the Israeli military or the Israeli settlements’. 

He added: ‘We have Kibbutz Nahal Oz that is 800 metres from the border. So you need to take more precautions in such an area. 

‘The whole contour of the Gaza Strip, it doesn’t allow us to take risks. We have seen what happened when we took risks. It was a mistake we are not going to repeat.’

Another Israeli official added: ‘Obviously Gaza tomorrow will not look anything like it did before October 7. 

‘Hamas will be dismantled, as will Islamic Jihad, and they won’t be able to attack Israel again. 

‘How it looks territorially .- we don’t have the details, but that is our objective: There won’t be any terrorists on our border like there was before.’



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