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Battle Rages in Southern Gaza as Blinken Presses for Next Pause in Fighting

Israeli soldiers embrace next to photos of people killed and taken captive by Hamas militants during their violent rampage through the Nova music festival in southern Israel near kibbutz Re'im, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Israeli soldiers embrace next to photos of people killed and taken captive by Hamas militants during their violent rampage through the Nova music festival in southern Israel near kibbutz Re'im, Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

JERUSALEM, Israel – Tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East, as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels hit three commercial ships in the Red Sea with ballistic missiles. A U.S. warship patrolling the region shot down three Houthi drones in a skirmish that lasted for hours.

There were no injuries, but the U.S. is vowing to consider all appropriate responses.

Meanwhile, in southern Gaza, the military is expanding the ground offensive to "all areas of the Gaza Strip," according to Israeli Defense Forces Chief Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. He added that wherever Hamas operates, Israel will find them.

Israel's Channel 12 reports U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his most recent visit, linked American military support to certain conditions, including proof that the I.D.F. plans to take into consideration the civilian population in Gaza, reduce civilian evacuations from their homes to a minimum, and provide more safe areas for non-combatants.

Speaking in the Middle East, Vice President Kamala Harris took a critical line, saying, "Too many Palestinians have died."

Also, Progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, representing the leftists within the Democratic party, said they are finished with "asking nicely," and he called on the Biden team to use its "substantial leverage" with Israel to make sure it reduces civilian casualties in Gaza.

Israel came up with a solution, publishing an online map to facilitate evacuations where Hamas is illegally operating in civilian areas.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy noted, "On Friday, the IDF published an online map which is familiar to the residents of northern Gaza, dividing the area into very small, specific zones so that we can facilitate evacuations from areas where Hamas has been operating in violation of humanitarian law from within civilian areas."

Levy added, "And we're going to continue making efforts to get civilians out of harm's way from areas where Hamas is trying to hide behind them because there will be nowhere to hide for the Hamas terrorists who perpetrated the October 7th massacre, and have ever since been promising to perpetrate, repeat, atrocities against our people. Those are legitimate military targets. And we will do everything we can to get civilians out of harm's way so that we can reach those targets."

Blinken also reportedly set a timetable for Israel to finish the job in weeks. Tzipi Hotovely, Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, pushed back, stating, "We know we speak of reality on the ground. It took the Americans nine months in Mosul to dismantle ISIS's capabilities when there was no underground 'tunnel city.' This is much more complicated than Mosul."

The I.D.F. says it has destroyed 500 of the 800 tunnel shafts it's uncovered that Hamas built near schools, kindergartens, playgrounds, hospitals, mosques, and civilian homes. The underground city extends for hundreds of miles and houses large quantities of weapons, serving as one of Hamas's most strategic assets in its war against Israel.

On Saturday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed total victory.

"We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals and it's impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation. The ground operation was necessary to bring the results until now, and it is necessary to bring the results moving forward," he said.

Netanyahu also rejected the U.S. proposal that the Palestinian Authority take over Gaza after the fighting.

Critics point out that the P.A. still has not condemned the October 7th attacks, and is supporting terrorists in the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria).

The head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service pledged that Israel will eliminate all the leaders of Hamas, wherever they are. He said, "This is our Munich," referring to the Mossad operation to eliminate all the terrorists who killed the Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich Olympics. 

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