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Israel deploys reserve brigades to Gaza Strip


This handout picture released by the Israeli army on April 22, 2024, shows Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip.
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on April 22, 2024, shows Israeli soldiers operating in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military said Wednesday it is deploying two reserve brigade divisions to the Gaza Strip, a move that comes as Israel prepares for a ground invasion in the southern city of Rafah.

The military said the brigades would carry out “defensive and tactical missions,” without offering further details.

Israeli officials have said an offensive in Rafah is necessary to achieve their goal of eliminating Hamas terrorists.

The United States, United Nations and others have expressed concerns about a ground invasion, saying it could bring a humanitarian disaster to Rafah. More than half of Gaza’s population is sheltering in the area, with many people having fled from other parts of the territory due to the fighting and Israeli evacuation orders.

Despite tensions between the United States and Israel over Rafah, President Joe Biden Wednesday signed into law a $95 billion foreign aid bill that contains $26.4 billion for Israel, including military spending, and about $1 billion for humanitarian assistance for civilians in Gaza.

Israel’s foreign minister thanked President Biden on social media platform X.

Separately, the top U.N. aid official for Gaza told the Security Council on Wednesday that preparations for building the floating port and pier off Gaza are advancing, with the involvement of the United States and other countries.

Sigrid Kaag said the U.N. has outlined the parameters under which it can play a meaningful role in the distribution of aid from this corridor but was clear that neither sea nor air deliveries could substitute for truck convoys.

“Land routes are the only way to bring in the bulk of supplies needed,” she said.

Hope for one hostage’s family

On Wednesday, Hamas released a video apparently showing Israeli-American hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was among some 250 hostages taken during the October 7 terror attacks inside Israel.

The video could not be independently verified, but his family said they believe the video is of him.

In the nearly 3-minute-long video, the now 24-year-old Goldberg-Polin criticizes the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not protecting him and other Israelis on October 7. He said Netanyahu should be “ashamed” for leaving the hostages for more than 200 days and rejecting deals for their release.

Goldberg-Polin said he has been living in an “underground hell” and held up his left arm, showing the stump where his hand was blown off by a grenade during the attack on the Nova music festival where he was abducted.

His reference to how long he has been held, and another reference to the Jewish Passover holiday this week, suggest the tape was made recently. U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said the FBI is examining the video.

'Time is rapidly running out'

Hamas periodically releases propaganda videos like this one to pressure Israel’s government, where citizens have been demonstrating daily for the release of the hostages, and to cause further psychological distress.

The Hostages Families Forum said the Goldberg-Polin family allowed the video to be shared after it was released by Hamas.

“Hersh's cry is the collective cry of all the hostages — their time is rapidly running out,” the forum said in a statement. “With each passing day, the fear of losing more innocent lives grows stronger. We cannot afford to waste any more time; the hostages must be the top priority.”

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 250 hostages, according to Israel. Israel says the militants are still holding about 100 captives and the remains of more than 30 others.

The United States, Britain, Israel and several other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist group.

Israel’s response, a military campaign it says is aimed at eliminating Hamas and ensuring the group cannot carry out a future attack, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and injured more than 77,000 others, according to the Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says women and children account for two-thirds of those killed.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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