Israel tells Gazans to head south as military says 'soldiers now operating' across the border

Israel tells Gazans to head south as military says 'soldiers now operating' across the border

Israel has told civilians to flee south ahead of a possible ground invasion in northern Gaza as the conflict moves into its next stage.

Following heavy bombardment on Saturday, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said the country's objectives now require a "ground operation".

Reports had stated that troops had crossed the border overnight into northern Gaza and had remained in the battlefield.

"Our forces are currently operating on the ground in the Gaza Strip," IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi said.

"In order to expose and destroy the enemy, there is no other way than to enter its territory with force."

Key Points

  • Updated Gaza death toll figures

  • Thousands of Pro-Palestine protesters descend on central London

  • Fighter jets kill Hamas commander

That's it from our live Israel blog for this Saturday evening..

21:09 , Anthony France

Coverage from the Standard will continue on Sunday morning

Netanyahu confirms Israeli troops in Gaza and warns of 'long, difficult' war with Hamas

21:06 , Anthony France

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war against Hamas will be “long and difficult,” calling it a battle of good versus evil and a struggle for Israel’s existence.

Netanyahu told the nation in a televised news conference Saturday night that Israel has opened a “new phase” in the war – by sending ground forces into Gaza and expanding attacks from the ground, air and sea. He said these activities would only increase as Israel prepares for a broad ground invasion.

The goal, he said, is the complete destruction of Hamas.

“We always said, ‘Never again,’” he said. “Never again is now.”

Arrests as 100,000 pro-Palestinian protesters take to London streets

18:50 , Anthony France

A man was arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill as at least 100,000 pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of central London demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

One man was detained on Whitehall after a police officer was assaulted, the Metropolitan Police said.

The force said the officer was taken to hospital following the incident.

Another man was arrested in Waterloo Road on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and making threats to kill.

Police were seen clashing with pro-Palestinian protesters close to Downing Street.

Officers appeared to be detaining someone before demonstrators began scuffling with them.

Punches and kicks were thrown and officers ordered the protesters to move away.

One person was taken to the floor and carried away to chants of “let him go” from other protesters.

Cries of “Allahu akbar”, the Arabic phrase for “God is great”, also rang out.

Some protesters chanted “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, despite controversy around the slogan’s meaning.

PM Netanyahu meets families of Hamas hostages

18:45 , Anthony France

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara have met representatives of the families of people taken hostage by Hamas.

Netanyahu told them: “We will exercise and exhaust every possibility to bring them home.

“This effort not only has not stopped, it continues and it continues even harder”, adding: “We will exercise and exhaust every possibility to bring them home.”

Netanyahu is expected to hold a press conference with defence minister Yoav Gallant.

Israel drops leaflets into ‘battlefield’ north Gaza saying people must flee

18:32 , Anthony France

Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari has issued an urgent plea people in northern Gaza and Gaza City telling them to move south, adding that their “window to act is closing”.

The leaflets, written in Arabic, warn that the north of the territory has become a “battlefield” that is not safe.

That warning came via a post on X, which most Gazans currently can’t access due to the internet outage.

Israel’s military has also been dropping leaflets into Gaza with a similar warning.

British Palestinians 'helpless'

17:23 , Bill Mcloughlin

British Palestinians have said they felt "helpless" as they lost communication with their families trapped in Gaza and accused the UK Government of "failing its citizens" by not securing their escape.

Israel has knocked out communications in the Gaza Strip in intensified attacks over the last 24 hours, largely cutting off the 2.3 million population from contact with each other and the outside world.

Mohammed Awad, an English teacher at a language school in Cambridge, had been sharing regular WhatsApp messages and phone calls with his family - but he lost contact with them on Friday and has not heard from them since.

"(In our last call) my sisters, nephews and nieces all expressed their hope for immediate ceasefire," the 34-year-old, who moved to the UK in 2017, told the PA news agency.

"I'm speechless, helpless and outraged by this inhumane catastrophic tragedy."

Mr Awad's family are staying in Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the Gaza strip, where he was born and raised.

"My home town was turned into a war zone ... it's beyond my mind and belief what could happen to them," he said.

"I can't even imagine how they endured the terrors of war without water, food, electricity, fuel, internet or medical care."

Musk says Starlink to provide connectivity in Gaza through aid organizations

16:06 , Bill Mcloughlin

Elon Musk said on Saturday that SpaceX's Starlink will support communication links in Gaza with "internationally recognized aid organizations".

Musk said in a post on social media X, formerly known as Twitter, that it is not clear who has authority for ground links in Gaza, but we do know that "no terminal has requested a connection in that area".

Labour frontbencher breaks ranks to call for ceasefire

15:46 , Bill Mcloughlin

Dissent over Labour's stance on the Israel-Hamas war is growing as a series of shadow ministers voiced their support for a ceasefire.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is supporting the Conservative UK Government's diplomatic push for "humanitarian pauses" in the fighting to allow aid into Gaza and for people trapped in the bombarded territory to leave.

But he has faced disgruntlement from within the party over his reluctance to push for a total cessation of hostilities between the warring sides in the Middle East.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah, the shadow minister for crime reduction, tweeted: "What we are seeing is not defence, it is disproportionate attacks on a civilian population.

"I continue to call for a ceasefire to stop the killings of innocent civilians. We cannot be silent."

Gaza operation to continue until 'further notice,' says Israeli defence minister

14:35 , Bill Mcloughlin

Israel's defence minister Yoav Gallant has said the military has "shifted phases in the war" and that the operation will continue "until further notice".

"We attacked above the ground and under ground, we attacked terror operatives of all ranks, everywhere," he said in a video statement.

"The instructions for the forces are clear: the operation will continue until a new order."

Updated Gaza death toll figures

13:31 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Palestinian Health Authority has reported that the death toll in Gaza has risen to 7,659 since Israeli began its bombardment on October 7.

The West Bank's death toll reached 111 people dead and 1,950 others injured, the statement added, saying that women, children and the elderly represent 70 per cent of the total deaths in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Egypt's President warns region becoming a 'ticking time bomb'

13:23 , Bill Mcloughlin

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday warned against any expansion of the conflict in Gaza, saying the region risked becoming a "ticking time bomb".

He also said his country's sovereignty should be respected after drones were intercepted after entering Egyptian air space on Friday.

Israel on Friday said it was the target of the drones which it blamed on Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi movement. Egypt's military said the drones, which fell on the Egyptian towns of Taba and Nuweiba near the Israeli border, injuring six, originated in the southern Red Sea. It did not say who launched the drones.

"Regardless of where it comes from, I have warned of the expansion of the conflict. The region will becoming a ticking time bomb that impacts us all," he said, speaking at a conference.

"Egypt is a sovereign country and its sovereignty and position should be respected. Egypt is a strong country and it is untouchable," he added.

President Sisi held a peace summit last Saturday and has called for aid to be allowed into Gaza, the release of hostages, and a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Thousands of Pro-Palestine protesters descend on central London

13:02 , Bill Mcloughlin

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters have descended on central London with banners and posters to call for end an to the conflict in Gaza.

Some protesters were chanting "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free", despite controversy around the slogan's meaning.

Ahead of the march, the Met said it expected up to 100,000 people at the protest but said officers will intervene if any demonstrators use the word “jihad” in chants.

Read our story here.

Hamas says it will release some hostages after Russian request

12:18 , Bill Mcloughlin

Hamas has said it is ready to release eight hostages following a request from Russia.

Abu Marzouk, a Hamas official, told Russian state news agency RIA that the foreign ministry had given them a list of eight names with dual citizenship.

"We are very attentive to this list and we will handle it carefully because we look at Russia as our closest friend," Marzouk said.

"Now we are looking for those people. It's difficult, but we are looking. And as soon as we find them, we will release them. Despite the difficulties due to the current situation."

Scotland First minister 'not heard from in-laws'

11:42 , Bill Mcloughlin

Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf has said he has not heard from his in-laws who are trapped in Gaza.

He wrote on social media platform, X: "Thank you for your good wishes, I’m afraid we have not heard from my in-laws.

“My concern is for all the innocent people suffering for a crime they did not commit.

“If you did not vote for peace, while children are dying, then I do not know how you sleep at night.”

Israel 'shoots down' missile fired from Lebanon

11:19 , Bill Mcloughlin

Israel's military said on Saturday it had stopped a surface-to-air missile fired from Lebanon at one of its drones, and was responding by striking the launch site.

"The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) thwarted a surface-to-air missile that was fired from Lebanon toward an IDF UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).

"In response, the IDF is striking the origin of the missile's fire," it said.

Hamas not giving any indication it 'desires a ceasefire'

11:02 , Bill Mcloughlin

Hamas has given no indication it "desires or would abide by calls for a ceasefire", according to the Foreign Secretary.

James Cleverly also urged pro-Palestinian supporters demonstrating on British streets over the weekend to be "conscious of disinformation and manipulation" following reports Iran is attempting to use the rallies to sow division.

Mr Cleverly said "calls for a ceasefire in the abstract aren't going to help the situation".

The UK Government's position, backed by Labour and Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer, has been to push for "humanitarian pauses" to allow aid into Gaza and to allow people, including 200 trapped British nationals, to escape the territory.

The Foreign Secretary told broadcasters: "We have consistently sought to bring about pauses to facilitate the inward passage of humanitarian aid that we are providing and the release of hostages and the evacuation of British nationals in Gaza, so that has been our position from the start.

"Of course we want to see this resolved, we want to see Israel safe, peaceful and secure.

"But, as yet, I have seen or heard nothing from Hamas that gives me any confidence that they desire or would abide by calls for a ceasefire."

Pictures: First images emerge after overnight attacks

10:14 , Bill Mcloughlin

Images have begun to emerge from Gaza following the overnight bombardment.

The below pictures are from the town of Rafah in the south.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Police expecting up to '100,000 people' for pro-Palestine march in London as protests planned across the UK

10:04 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Met has said it expects up to 100,000 people to join a demonstration in London demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, with other rallies organised elsewhere in the UK.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters are expected to take to the streets of Britain on Saturday as Israel steps up its offensive on Gaza.

The Metropolitan Police said officers are expected to intervene if protesters use the word “jihad” in chants in London over the weekend.

A video emerged of a pro-Palestinian protester chanting “jihad” at one event last week, but officers had said no offences were identified in the footage from the demonstration.

Ahead of the weekend, Kyle Gordon, who is leading the force’s command team, told a press briefing: “If somebody is calling for jihad specifically against Israel the officers will intervene, gather the information, report it back into us and we’ll be working with colleagues (from counter-terrorism) in relation to what the best course of action is.”

Read our story here.

Israeli troops 'remain in the field' after military operations ramped up

09:33 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Israeli military said on Saturday it had entered northern Gaza overnight and expanded military operations in the besieged Palestinian enclave as it steps up its assault on the Hamas militant group.

"The forces are still in the field and continuing the war," Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a news briefing on Saturday morning.

Previously, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel.

Israel releases video of tanks gathering around Gaza

08:55 , Bill Mcloughlin

The Israeli military has released a video of tanks massing around Gaza ahead of an expected ground assault.

The video comes after the military warned it was stepping up ground assault plans on Friday.

WHO loses contact with staff in Gaza

08:40 , Bill Mcloughlin

The World Health Organization (WHO) is out of touch with its staff and health facilities in Gaza, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.He said: "This siege makes me gravely concerned for their safety and the immediate health risks of vulnerable patients.

"We urge immediate protection of all civilians and full humanitarian access."

BBC’s refusal to call Hamas terrorists was wrong says Kemi Badenoch

08:02 , Bill Mcloughlin

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has criticised the BBC’s refusal to call Hamas terrorists after the attacks on Israel which sparked the growing conflict.

She told the Daily Telegraph a “false equivalence” has been made in “an attempt to be impartial”.

“Given all of the footage that we saw, we were in no doubt that what we were looking at was a terror attack,” she said, defending the UK continuing to deal with Qatar which is believed to be housing members of Hamas.

Read our story here.

Fighter jets kill Hamas commander

07:32 , Bill Mcloughlin

Israeli airstrikes have allegedly killed Asem Abu Rakaba, head of the Hamas Aerial Array, who was responsible for Hamas' UAVs, drones, paragliders, aerial detection and aerial defence, the country's military has said.

The Israeli Defence Forces said: "He took part in planning the massacre in the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip on October 7th.

"He directed the terrorists who infiltrated Israel on paragliders and was responsible for the drone attacks on IDF posts."