US Boosts Mideast Defence, Israel Hits Gaza And Beyond

Concerns about conflict spreading in the Middle East have escalated as Israel launched strikes on new fronts, with its warplanes hitting Syria and the

Date: 22-10-2023 22:00

US Boosts Mideast Defence, Israel Hits Gaza And Beyond

Concerns about conflict spreading in the Middle East have escalated as Israel launched strikes on new fronts, with its warplanes hitting Syria and the West Bank while continuing to bombard Gaza.

Israeli missiles hit Syria’s international airports in Damascus and Aleppo early on Sunday (local time), putting both out of service and killing two workers, Syrian state media said.

Israel is also fighting Lebanon on its northern border and evacuated another 14 Israeli communities there amid skirmishes with Hezbollah.

And in the occupied West Bank, Israeli aircraft struck a mosque which the military said contained a compound used by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to organise attacks.

Meanwhile Iran — which backs Hamas and Hezbollah and has a presence in Syria — issued a stern warning to Israel and the US to stop the “genocide in Gaza” or the region could spiral out of control.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “I warn the US and its proxy (Israel)… that if they do not immediately stop the crime against humanity and genocide in Gaza, anything is possible at any moment and the region will go out of control.”

In return, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Iran against an “escalation” of the conflict as the US sent more military assets to the region.

Blinken also cautioned Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister that the Lebanese population would be affected if his country were drawn into the Israel-Hamas war, the State Department said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited troops on the border with Lebanon and warned Hezbollah against making “the mistake of its life”.

“We will strike it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the significance for it and the state of Lebanon will be devastating.”

Meanwhile the Israeli army expressed “sorrow” after one of its tanks accidentally hit an Egyptian position near the border with the Gaza Strip.

“The incident is being investigated and the details are under review. The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) expresses sorrow regarding the incident,” it said in a statement, giving no further details.

Aid enters Gaza

Another 19 aid trucks were ready to enter Gaza after a first convoy of 20 trucks with badly needed supplies arrived on Saturday (local time).

But aid agencies are still warning of a humanitarian disaster as food, water and fuel runs low.

Israel stepped up its bombardment of the Gaza Strip amid fears of wider Middle East conflict.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Monday morning (AEDT) that 266 Palestinians, including 117 children, had been killed by Israeli air strikes in the past 24 hours in the enclave, to which Israel laid “total siege” after a deadly mass infiltration into Israel by Hamas gunmen on October 7.

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An Israeli airstrike destroys the Rafah neighbourhood in Gaza. Photo: Getty

Israel began unrelenting air strikes on Gaza to its southwest after Hamas militants breached the border and carried out a shock rampage through nearby communities, killing 1400 people, mainly civilians, and taking 212 hostages back to Gaza.

At least 4651 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, have been killed and more than a million of the tiny territory’s 2.3 million people displaced, said Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Sunday (local time).

US sends military assets

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said Washington would send more military assets to the Middle East in support of Israel and strengthen the US defence posture in the region following “recent escalations by Iran and its proxy forces” — a reference to Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist militants.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system and additional Patriot air defence missile system battalions will be sent to the region and more troops put on standby, Austin said.

Washington has already deployed a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and about 2000 Marines.

Drones and rockets targeted two military bases housing US forces in Iraq last week, the latest in a series of attacks after Iraqi militants warned Washington against intervening to support Israel against Hamas in Gaza.

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Palestinians mourn a young man killed in Israel’s strikes on Gaza. Photo: Getty

Israel has amassed tanks and troops near the fenced border around Gaza for a planned ground invasion aiming to annihilate Hamas.

Hamas’ armed wing said it had fired more rockets at Tel Aviv on Sunday. There was no immediate word of damage or casualties.

With Israel keeping up daily bombings that have devastated swathes of the densely populated enclave, Palestinians said they received renewed Israeli military warnings to move from Gaza’s north to the south to avoid the deadliest theatre of the war.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said most of the dead from air strikes over the past 24 hours were in Gaza’s south. Israel says it is only targeting militants and that they often use residential buildings as cover.

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