Israel says it has killed the architect of Hamas’ aerial incursion into the country three weeks ago – as jets struck 150 ‘underground targets’ during an intense night of raids.
Asem Abu Rakaba was killed in one of the attacks carried out on alleged targets linked to the terror group, according to a statement issued by the Israeli military.
Abu Rakaba commanded the Hamas militants who infiltrated Israel on paragliders on October 7, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said; terrorists flew over the border into Israel to carry out the attacks that killed some 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians.
Israeli shelling and air strikes destroyed ‘terror tunnels, underground combat spaces and additional underground infrastructure, according to the IDF, which added: ‘Furthermore, several Hamas terrorists were killed.’
Israel says 1,400 people, mainly civilians, were killed in the cross-border attack. The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says more than 7,300 people have been killed in Israel’s raids since, also mostly civilians.
Asem Abu Rakaba, who is alleged to have masterminded the aerial aspects of Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, was killed in an aerial raid last night, the IDF says
Footage published on social media appeared to show an aerial bombardment on a building in Gaza Strip that is said to have killed Abu Rakaba
Aerial bombardment above the burning region unleashed strikes of ‘unprecedented’ intensity into Gaza
Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu had previously refused to authorize an invasion as he rallied political support – angering military chiefs as their western allies began to call for a ceasefire
Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) only agreed to press into the war-torn enclave after hostage talks with Hamas terrorists had collapsed and he had unanimous approval from senior ministers
Now, the Jewish nation have troops and tanks on the ground in Gaza as they ‘expand’ their military operation
The war cabinet has struggled over their priorities – as some wanted to focus on destroying Hamas while others were determined that freeing hostages should be the primary focus
The possibility of a second front being opened against Hezbollah in Lebanon, alongside the threat of a grinding war of attrition inside Gaza has made some hesitant to throw their weight behind the offensive
Pictured, still from footage showing fighters training ahead of Hamas’ operation into Israel; Asem Abu Rakaba is alleged to have masterminded the aerial assault
In a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter, the IDF said: ‘Overnight, IDF fighter jets struck Asem Abu Rakaba, the Head of Hamas’ Aerial Array.
‘Abu Rakaba was responsible for Hamas’ UAVs, drones, paragliders, aerial detection and defense.
‘He took part in planning the October 7 massacre and commanded the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders and was responsible for the drone attacks on IDF posts.’
The image of paragliders has become a symbol of support for Hamas, a proscribed terror group in the UK; the Met Police are hunting for alleged terror sympathisers who stuck pictures of the gliders to people during a pro-Palestine rally in London.
Israel says it is bombarding a network of underground tunnels beneath northern Gaza, from which Hamas is alleged to operate.
It claims the terror group has a base underneath the Shifa Hospital – the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip – and released what it said was an ‘intelligence-based’ illustration of the base.
The country’s war cabinet overcame a bitter rift to launch troops and tanks into the Palestinian territory yesterday as the thousands who remained in the north despite orders to leave were cut off from the outside world in a communications blackout.
Those living in the besieged strip have been left in the dark as their electricity and communications were cut off – including that of struggling NGOs and emergency services.
The Palestinian telecom provider, Paltel, said the bombardment caused “complete disruption” of internet, mobile and landline services.
The blackout has prompted concerns that aid agencies are not able to communicate within the enclave.
Melanie Ward, chief executive of aid charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday that she had not been able to reach staff working within Gaza since 4pm on Friday.
She added: ‘Phones won’t connect, WhatsApp messages won’t deliver – we are desperately worried for all of our colleagues.’
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation, has called for a ceasefire to be brokered, claiming hospitals cannot be evacuated and ambulances cannot be directed to casualties under the blackout.
He said on Saturday: ‘Reports of intense bombardment in Gaza are extremely distressing. Evacuation of patients is not possible under such circumstances, nor to find safe shelter.
‘The blackout is also making it impossible for ambulances to reach the injured. We are still out of touch with our staff and health facilities. I’m worried about their safety.
‘WHO appeals to all those who have the power to push for a ceasefire to act NOW.’
Lynn Hastings, UN humanitarian coordinator for Palestine, that aid agencies, journalists and civilians will be at ‘grave risk’ while communications are cut.
She tweeted: ‘Wars have rules. Civilians must be protected.’
James Cleverly, the UK foreign secretary, wrote: ‘The UK’s top priority remains the safety of British nationals in Gaza and the region.
‘We support Israel’s right to self defence, in line with IHL (international humanitarian law), and continue to push for the protection of Palestinian civilians.’
It came after iOS and Android apps for the messaging app Telegram cut off access to Hamas-controlled communications, CNN reports.
Users of the app on mobile devices who try to view Hamas-affiliated accounts are given the message: ‘Unfortunately, this channel couldn’t be displayed on your device.’
Palestinians inspect the devastation of destroyed buildings following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City
The Israeli Prime Minister was burned as a puppet during a rally of solidarity with the Palestinian people, in Hyderabad, Pakistan, yesterday
An Israeli armored personnel carrier moves near the Gaza Strip border, where troops for the Jewish nation have massed in southern Israel
Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to press into the war-torn enclave after hostage talks with Hamas terrorists had collapsed and he had unanimous approval from senior ministers.
He had previously refused to authorize an invasion as he rallied political support – angering military chiefs as their western allies began to call for a ceasefire, the Telegraph reported.
Now, the Jewish nation already have troops and tanks on the ground in Gaza as they ‘expand’ their military operation, with aerial bombardment overhead unleashing strikes of ‘unprecedented’ intensity into the burning region.
‘Our troops and tanks are inside the Gaza Strip. They’re shooting and they’re operating,’ Major Nir Dinar confirmed to the New York Times.
He added: ‘But our troops and tanks were inside Gaza yesterday as well.’
Hamas further revealed that it was engaged in fighting in Beit Hanoun and the east of Bureij, in the north of the Gaza Strip.
But approval for the ground invasion has been difficult to achieve with politicians divided over objectives and strategy, the New York Times reported – despite the country pledging to ‘wipe out’ Hamas after a raid that left 1,400 dead.
The possibility of a second front being opened against Hezbollah in Lebanon, alongside the threat of a grinding war of attrition inside Gaza has made some hesitant to throw their weight behind the offensive.
And the war cabinet has struggled over their priorities – as some wanted to focus on destroying Hamas while others were determined that freeing hostages should be the primary focus.
Still more argued over whether the offensive should be a sweeping invasion or a series of small attacks.
And the Israeli public faltered – with nearly half believing ‘it would be better to wait’ than launch an offensive according to polling on Friday and only 29 per cent calling for escalation.
This was down nearly 40 per cent in less than two weeks on a poll in the Hebrew-language newspaper Maariv.
Prior to the attacks the Israeli public faltered – with nearly half believing ‘it would be better to wait’ than launch an offensive according to polling on Friday and only 29 per cent calling for escalation
A top political adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas it will feel Israel’s ‘wrath’, as Israeli warplanes unleashed airstrikes
Senior advisors have been stuck arguing over whether the offensive should be a sweeping invasion or a series of small attacks
Palestinians were left in a terrifying blackout as communications were shut off and Israeli warplanes unleased airstrikes on the strip
Ahead of the onslaught, Palestinian civilians were warned by the IDF to flee to the south of Gaza
Missiles then slammed into the Hamas-controlled region, razing buildings to the ground and bathing the skyline in an apocalyptic orange glow, as fire raged
‘You have a cabinet with different opinions,’ Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon told the New York Times.
‘Some would say that we have to start — then we can think about the next stage.
‘But we as the leadership, as statesmen, we have to set the goals, and the goals should be very clear. It shouldn’t be vague.’
The relentless bombardment came as Israeli defence chiefs confirmed IDF troops were ‘expanding operations’ across the enclave, in a move military experts say signalled the impending full-scale ground invasion of the territory.
Ahead of the onslaught, Palestinian civilians were warned by the IDF to flee to the south of Gaza, before missiles then slammed into the Hamas-controlled region, razing buildings to the ground and bathing the skyline in an apocalyptic orange glow, as fire raged.
The bombing, which observers described as much more ferocious and louder than previous days, coincided with electricity and communications blackouts in much of the besieged enclave.
Speaking to MSNBC, Israeli political adviser Mark Regev claimed Hamas will pay for what he said were its crimes against humanity.
Smoke rises from explosions caused by Israeli airstrikes in the northern Gaza Strip
The relentless bombardment came as Israeli defence chiefs confirmed IDF troops were ‘expanding operations’ across the enclave
Huge plumes of smoke could be seen rising across the Hamas-controlled territory
The strikes have almost completely crippled Gaza’s telecommunications infrastructure
Communication from Gaza were reportedly cut in the bombardment – with mobile, internet and landline services out (pictured)
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari (pictured) said a press conference today: ‘In recent hours we have increased the attacks in Gaza. The air force widely attacks underground targets and terrorist infrastructure, very significantly’
He told Fox News in a separate interview tonight that the Gaza Strip would look ‘very different’ after ‘this is over.’
He told Fox News tonight: ‘We are beefing up the pressure on Hamas. We’re increasing the pressure that they’re under. Our military operations are underway.
‘They will continue to be on the receiving end of our military blows until we have dismantled their military machine and dissolve their political structure in Gaza. When this is over, Gaza will be very different.’
The IDF said tonight it was expanding its bombardment campaign against Gaza, and was ‘working powerfully in all dimensions’ to achieve its military goals.
Hamas returned fire with a ‘salvo’ of rockets, though it not known how many were caught by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.
The terror group also called on those in the West Bank and ‘1948 territories’ – a term used by Palestinians meaning Israel in reference to when it was founded – to take up arms as Israel’s ground invasion begins.
Hamas reportedly said that it held Israel, the US and Western nations which support Israel ‘fully responsible for the series of heinous massacres’ against the people of Gaza.
Crowds of hundreds of people in the city of Ramallah, on the West Bank chanted ‘If you have a rifle… you should either kill a Jew or give it to Hamas,’ according to video from Palestinian news agency Shehab.
It was not clear whether the latest development in the bloodiest conflict between Hamas and Israel was a threat of a full invasion or a bigger but similar ‘probe’ to those launched on Wednesday and Thursday nights, with the troops returning by dawn.
Former General Wesley Clark, former NATO Allied Commander told CNN he believed the operation was a preparatory ‘softening up’ operation, rather than the full-scale invasion, adding that each probe yielded vital intelligence about how the Hamas defenders reacted.
Video footage of the ‘unprecedented’ bombing campaign saw Gaza’s night sky light up bright orange, as the explosion was heard from miles away.
The increased bombardment campaign saw fires being set across the city, billowing thick smoke into the night sky.
The Hamas government said the Israel bombardment campaign ‘cut communications and most of the internet’ across the Gaza Strip, and accused the IDF of taking the measure ‘to perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea.’
Gaza has been bombed nonstop for nearly three straight weeks
Hamas accused Israel of increasing its missile strikes to ‘perpetrate massacres with bloody retaliatory strikes from the air, land and sea’
Gaza has tonight been bombed by Israeli airplanes, following an increased bombardment campaign by the IDF
Several Palestinian telecoms providers announced ‘the total cut of all communication services and internet’ in the territory, leaving the hundreds of thousands of civilians in a communications blackout.
Global internet monitor NetBlocks reported ‘a collapse in connectivity in the Gaza Strip,’ citing live network data.
NGOs working in Gaza have claimed the move may be deadly for the enclave’s citizens, with the Palestinian Red Crescent, the main emergency service in Gaza, saying it was cut off from its operations room in the strip because of the internet blackout.
It said in a statement tonight: ‘We are deeply concerned about the ability of our teams to continue providing their emergency medical services, especially since this disruption affects the central emergency number ‘101’ and hinders the arrival of ambulance vehicles to the wounded and injured.’
The group’s director Marwan Jilani, told Al Jazeera that it lost contact with its Gazan team several hours ago.
‘We’re extremely worried and concerned for our colleagues,’ he said.
‘Apart from the humanitarian catastrophe that has been happening before the world’s eyes the last few days, we are now facing a total darkness. We don’t know what’s happening.
‘We’re really scared and we’re shaken to the core.’
Hamas returned fire with a ‘salvo’ of rocket fire, though it is not known whether these were effective
The Hamas rockets have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system
The Palestinian death toll passed 7,300 as Israel launched waves of airstrikes
NGOs have already said that Israel’s latest bombardment campaign may be deadly for Gazans
Several NGOs have said they cannot communicate with their Gazan colleagues
ActionAid, an NGO that works to alleviate poverty across the world, said it was gravely concerned that it has lost contact with its team in Gaza.
The charity said in a statement: ‘We are gravely concerned for their safety and that of all the people of Gaza as signs grow of a major land escalation following almost three weeks of bombardment.
‘We urgently call for the restoration of communication channels, as this is not only a matter of principle but also one of practical necessity.’
Oxfam said it was ‘deeply concerned’ with tonight’s developments in Gaza, ‘especially the total loss of communication’ in the Strip.
The NGO called for a ceasefire ‘to protect innocent lives.’
According to one report the Israelis even unleashed ‘bunker buster’ concussion missiles to try and destroy the extensive Hamas tunnel network under Gaza.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari telling reporters at a press conference today: ‘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.’
Witnesses said the Israeli forces unleashed artillery and tank fire on Gaza as well as the ‘unprecedented’ airstrikes.
The IDF said tonight it was expanding its bombardment campaign against Gaza
Former General Wesley Clark, former NATO Allied Commander told CNN he believed the operation was a preparatory ‘softening up’ operation
Israel says it is expanding its ground operation tonight. Pictured: Mourners collect the bodies of Palestinians killed in Israeli raids on Friday
Witnesses said the Israeli forces unleashed artillery and tank fire on Gaza as well as the ‘unprecedented’ airstrikes. Pictured: A youth waves a Hamas flag in the West Bank
IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari highlighted the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City earlier today, claiming that it was being used as a Hamas command and control facility and added: ‘We continue with our efforts to identify and intercept terrorist cells all the time.’
Hamas denied they were using the hospital.
The IDF has warned that Gaza hospitals that are being used ‘terror facilities’ by Hamas may soon lose rights afforded to them under international law.
IDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told Sky News: ‘We’ve been telling people to leave the north of the Gaza Strip, and we’ve made several calls to the al Shifa hospital.
‘Those calls have not been responded to and are not being adhered to.
‘Now we understand why – because Hamas is preventing people from moving, Hamas is limiting their capability.
‘If these actions continue from hospitals under certain conditions, indeed hospitals could lose their protections that they’re entitled to.’
It came after Israel’s ambassador to the UN said the ‘only way to destroy Hamas is to root them out of their tunnels and their subterranean city of terror’.
And experts have claimed the terrorist group have used hospitals and innocent Palestinians as ‘shields’ – using their deaths to further their own cause against Israel.
Colonel Philip Ingram, a former officer in British military intelligence, told MailOnline: ‘Israel will be precisely targeting areas where Hamas have concentrated or have got military facilities.
‘Now what Hamas is doing is it’s putting those military facilities inside civilian buildings. Hamas want civilians to die.
‘They want the world to see pictures of women and children being carried out of rubble after an attack.
‘Israel are proportional to the threat that’s in there and they’re being very careful to try and reduce civilian casualties as much as possible.
‘But because Hamas is using the Palestinian people as human shields civilian casualties aren’t inevitability.’
The IDF’s position was condemned by international watchdog Human Rights Watch.
The UN overwhelming voted to call for a humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, a move that was condemned by Israel officials
An Israeli armoured personnel carrier is pictured moving into position near Gaza tonight
Flares fired by the Israeli army light up the sky east of Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip on October 27
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, condemned Israel’s current position on the rights afforded to Gaza hospitals under international law.
He said: ‘The Israeli army statement on Gaza hospitals raises grave concerns for the safety of patients and medical workers.
‘If accurate, the use of medical facilities by Palestinian armed groups for military operations is alarming and violates the laws of war.
‘But hospitals have special protections that they only lose if being used to ‘commit acts harmful to the enemy,’ and after due warning. Doctors, nurses, and ambulances have to be permitted to do their work and be protected in all circumstances.’
The new upsurge against Gaza in violence came as the foreign minister of neighbouring Jordan accused Israel of launching its long-anticipated ground war against Gaza, adding that the consequence of this will be a ‘humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.’
The international community today overwhelmingly appealed for a humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, as the UN’s general assembly voted through a resolution in New York.
The resolution also called for ‘the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive,’ though it does not name Hamas as the captor.
But the move was condemned by Gilad Erdan, Israel’s envoy to the world body, who accused the UN of supporting ‘Nazi terrorists’, referring to Hamas.
He said the international body had no legitimacy or relevance, and added that the only way to destroy Hamas was to ‘root them out of their tunnels and destroy their subterranean city of terror.’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urgently appealed for more aid deliveries to be allowed through to Gaza from Egypt.
‘The humanitarian system in Gaza is facing a total collapse with unimaginable consequences for more than 2 million civilians,’ Guterres said in a statement.
In the occupied West Bank, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids since the war’s start three weeks ago
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians slain during the initial Hamas attack
The international community today overwhelmingly appealed for a humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, as the UN’s general assembly voted through a resolution in New York
The resolution also called for ‘the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive,’ though it does not name Hamas as the captor
But despite this, the United States said it supports a pause in Israeli military operations in Gaza to get humanitarian aid, fuel and electricity to civilians there.
White House spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that if getting hostages out of Gaza requires a localised temporary pause, then the United States is in support of that.
He added: ‘We’re not drawing red lines for Israel. We’re going to continue to support them.
‘Since the very beginning we have, and will continue to have, conversations about the manner that they are doing this.’
British political figures reacted to the news of the IDF’s increased bombardment campaign.
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf, whose parents-in-law are still trapped in Gaza, wrote today in a post to X, formerly Twitter:
‘Gaza is under intense bombing. Telecommunications have been cut.
‘We can’t get through to our family who have been trapped in this war zone for almost 3 weeks.
White House spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that if getting hostages out of Gaza requires a localised temporary pause, then the United States is in support of that
The Palestinian death toll passed 7,300 as Israel launched waves of airstrikes in response to the bloody Hamas rampage in southern Israel on October 7
The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which tracks the toll, released a detailed list, including names and ID numbers on Thursday
‘We can only pray they survive the night. How many more children have to die before the world says enough?’
Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, and the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson for FCDO & Science, Tech and Innovation, said in a post to X, formerly Twitter: ‘Fresh hell looks to be unleashed tonight.
‘We need to create an international movement for a lasting peace as remote as it may feel. These scenes must never be repeated.’
The MP said in a previous post minutes before: ‘Every night I go to sleep afraid of what new heart-wrenching developments I am going to wake up to. But tonight, I may not be able to sleep at all. Please let me be wrong.’
The Palestinian death toll passed 7,300 as Israel launched waves of airstrikes in response to the bloody Hamas rampage in southern Israel on October 7.
The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which tracks the toll, released a detailed list, including names and ID numbers on Thursday.
In the occupied West Bank, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids since the war’s start three weeks ago.
More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians slain during the initial Hamas attack.
In addition, 229 people, including foreigners, children and older adults, were taken by Hamas during the incursion and remain in captivity in Gaza.So far, four hostages were released earlier.