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Israel stepping up ground operations in Gaza Strip

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Israeli air and ground forces are stepping up operations in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s chief military spokesperson said on Friday, amid reports of heavy bombing of the besieged enclave.

Internet and mobile phone services were cut off in the Palestinian territory, a local telecoms firm and the Red Cross said.

“In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised news briefing, raising expectations that the long-anticipated ground invasion of Gaza may be beginning.

He said the air force was conducting extensive strikes on tunnels and other infrastructure. Portraits of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza are seen during an installation calling for their release in Jerusalem.

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“In addition to the attacks carried out in the last few days, ground forces are expanding their operations tonight,” he said.

Israeli forces have massed outside Gaza, where Israel has been conducting an intense campaign of aerial bombardment since a deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

Earlier on Friday, Palestinian mobile phone service provider Jawwal said that services including phone and internet had been cut by heavy bombardment.
A statement from the Palestine Red Crescent Society said it had completely lost contact with its operations room in Gaza and all its teams operating on the ground.

Israel says it is preparing a ground invasion, but has been urged by the US and Arab countries to delay an operation that would multiply the number of civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip and might ignite a wider conflict.

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