US officials said Sunday that they expect Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza within the next 24-48 hours after the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally declared it was at war with Hamas, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
A spokesman for the Israeli military said in a video posted to X that Israel has 100,000 reservist troops amassed in southern Israel near Gaza. “We have amassed around 100,000 reserve troops who are currently in southern Israel preparing to execute the task the Israeli government has designated the IDF to do,” said spokesman Jonathan Conricus.
“Our job is to make sure that at the end of this war, Hamas will no longer have any military capability to threaten Israeli civilians. In addition to that, we are also to make sure that Hamas will not be able to govern the Gaza Strip,” he added.
Over 1,000 people have been killed in two days of violence since Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel from Gaza on Saturday, which included a ground assault and rocket fire. Israel responded by cutting off power, fuel, and all imports to Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007, and launched major airstrikes on the besieged enclave.
Fighting in southern Israel was still ongoing on Sunday afternoon, and Israel continued to pound Gaza. As of early Monday morning in Israel, the death toll includes over 629 Israelis and 420 Palestinians.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed that they had taken captive 130 people from Israel into Gaza, including some Israeli soldiers. They want Israel to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the Israelis.
Hamas gunned down Israeli civilians in its attack, including at a music festival near Gaza. Israeli strikes on Gaza have also killed civilians, including dozens of women and children. One man told AP that 19 members of his family were wiped out in a strike on his house. “This is a safe house, with children and women,” he said.
Because Gaza is under blockade, its residents have nowhere to flee, and a major Israeli ground assault on the enclave will incur massive civilian casualties. Over 2 million people live in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth.
The US is strongly backing Israel as it’s preparing to invade Gaza. President Biden told Netanyahu more military aid is on the way, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.
The Washington Post also reported that Israel has requested heightened cooperation with the US on military intelligence-sharing related to southern Lebanon. Early on Sunday, Israel struck Lebanon after Hezbollah launched rockets at Israeli military posts in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, signaling the possibility of a two-front war.