Hezbollah’s chief has said it is ‘fully prepared’ to join Hamas in its war against Israel, with the Jewish state today calling the two terror groups and Iran an ‘axis of evil’.
Sheikh Naim Qassem addressed a large crowd of cheering supporters in Beirut waving Hezbollah and Palestinian flags and holding pictures of burning Israeli ones.
He said major powers, Arab countries and the UN had ‘directly and indirectly’ told Hezbollah ‘not to interfere’ in ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Despite the warnings, the leader of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese group – which has already clashed with Israeli forces in recent days – said it was ‘ready’ and would ‘contribute’ to confrontations against its southern neighbour.
Qassem’s comments came as Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant this afternoon called Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran an ‘axis of evil’. ‘Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas is one axis, an axis of evil. Everything is decided generally from Iran,’ he said.
Gallant was speaking alongside his American counterpart Lloyd Austin after Israel ordered more than one million people living in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes ‘immediately’ and flee south in just 24 hours.
The order comes ahead of a feared Israeli ground offensive aimed at eradicating Hamas in the the enclave, which – accoring to the head of the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency – is ‘fast becoming a hellhole on the brink of collapse.’
Israel’s order has sparked widespread panic among civilians already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade, while the UN called such an evacuation ‘impossible’, saying it would turn an already tragic situation into a calamity.
Hezbollah’s chief has said the group is ‘fully prepared’ to join Hamas in its war against Israel which today declared the two terror groups and Iran ‘one axis of evil.’ Pictured: Hezbollah supporters wave the Palestinian flag and their party flag during a rally in Beirut on October 13
A Hezbollah supporter holds a picture of an Israeli flag that reads in Arabic, ‘Soon it will collapse’ during a rally supporting Palestinians in Gaza, in Beirut on October 13
A Hezbollah supporter holds placard during a rally in Beirut on October 13
Sheik Naim Kassem (pictured today) – the leader of the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese terror group which has already clashed with Israel in recent days – said it was ‘ready’ and would ‘contribute’ to confrontations against Israel according to its own plan
Qassem’s comments came as Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said this afternoon that Hamas is part of an ‘axis of evil’ with Iran and Hezbollah, during a press conference delivered along side US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (pictured together today)
As fighting sparked by Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on Saturday raged into its seventh day, Gallant said Palestinian civilians ‘who want to save their lives’ must heed Israel’s warning to evacuate southward in the enclave.
He declined, however, to answer a reporter’s question on whether Israel – which has signalled that a ground invasion could follow its current air barrage on Gaza – would stick to the 24-hour evacuation notice it issued on Friday morning.
Earlier, with around 12 hours left since giving the 24-hour warning, Israel dropped flyers over northern Gaza telling residents on the streets below to flee south.
Palestine‘s health minister has warned that Gaza is facing a humanitarian and health catastrophe and urged all countries and human rights groups to help with the immediate entry of medical and emergency aid to the enclave.
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit branded the Israeli order a ‘forced transfer’ that he said constitutes a ‘crime‘, while the secretary general of the pan-Arab body, in a letter sent to UN chief Antonio Guterres, accused Israel of carrying out ‘an atrocious act of revenge… punishing helpless civilians in Gaza’.
Meanwhile, Hamas claimed at least 13 Israeli and foreign hostages held in northern Gaza have been killed in Israeli air strikes in the past 24 hours, and before Hamas operatives fired hundreds of rockets towards Israel around midday on Friday.
‘Thirteen prisoners… including foreigners’ were killed in five locations targeted by Israeli fighter jets, Hamas’s armed wing said Friday.
Israel dismissed the claims as ‘lies’.
Israel’s bombardment on Gaza began on Saturday after Hamas terrorists rampaged into the south of Israel, slaughtering at least 1,300 civilians.
Smoke rises above buildings, in the southern Gaza Strip, following an Israeli strike, October 13
Buildings are seen having been reduced to rubble in Gaza by Israeli air strikes
Gaza City residents are seen on their way out of the city to the southern safer parts
Residents of Gaza city begin to evacuate following an Israeli warning of increased military operations in the Gaza strip, October 13
Riding in a damaged vehicle a Palestinian family flees with hundreds of other following the Israeli army’s warning to leave their homes and move south before an expected ground offensive into Gaza City, October 13
An Israeli army Merkava battle tank deploys with others along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 13
Hamas’ attack was so coordinated and effective, analysts have said it is likely that the terrorist group had the backing of the Iranian government, which supports Hamas.
Iran heads the so-called ‘axis of resistance’ that includes powerful militant groups in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilisation Forces in Iraq.
Asked during a news conference whether Tehran consented to the weekend Hamas onslaught, Gallant said: ‘It doesn’t matter … (because) the idea is an Iranian idea.’
‘This is a war for the existence of Israel as a prosperous state, as a democratic state, as homeland of the Jewish people,’ Gallant said.
‘We are fighting for our home. We are fighting for our future. The path will be long, but ultimately I promise you we will win.’
He added: ‘Israel never and ever will not shoot civilians on purpose. Never,’ but he added that Hamas militants will camouflage themselves with the population and Israel will have to separate them.
Lloyd Austin, Gallant’s American counterpart, said Hamas fighters took ‘evil to another level’ from Islamic State jihadists, as he pledged ‘iron-clad’ backing for Israel in its war against the Palestinian terrorist group.
‘In encountering ISIS I felt as if we were staring evil in the eye – it was truly evil,’ said Austin after talks with his Israeli counterpart.
‘And what we’ve seen from Hamas, it takes that evil to another level.’
Austin said that munitions, air defence capabilities and other equipment and resources were ‘rapidly flowing’ to Washington’s closest Middle Eastern ally.
However, he also cautioned that the fightback against Hamas must have limits, cautioning that it was a time for ‘resolve’ and not ‘revenge’. ‘Democracies like ours are stronger and more secure when we uphold the laws of war,’ he said.
Gallant’s comments were echoed by Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told Spectator TV Iran was the main threat to the country lying behind groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
‘Allow me to use an octopus metaphor,’ he said. ‘Israel is fighting the tentacles but the head is in Tehran. There is a strategic logic in saying, “Well you are fighting the tentacles but you can’t really win the war unless you deal with the head.”‘
Israel has ordered more than one million people to evacuate northern Gaza within 24 hours ahead of a feared Israeli ground offensive aimed at eradicating Hamas
Flyers dropped by the IDF warning residents to flee are seen in the skies above Gaza today
The order has sent panic through civilians and aid workers already struggling under Israeli airstrikes and a blockade, while the United Nations called such an evacuation ‘impossible’ that would turn an tragedy into calamity. Pictured: Children are seen in a Gaza City hospital
A Palestinian man runs amid the rubble of a building hit in an Israeli air strike on October 13
A Hamas official has called the evacuation order ‘fake propaganda’, urged Palestinians to stay in their homes and not to ‘fall for it’
Palestinians with their belongings flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes
Smoke billows following Israeli strikes amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Gaza, October 13, 2023
Israeli army soldiers ride in the turret of a Merkava battle tank deploying along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 13
A column of heavy armoured personnel carriers (APCs) at an area along the border with Gaza, southern Israel, as Israel gathers its forces around the enclave
Israel’s military sent one evacuation order directly on Friday morning, telling the 1.1 million people living north of an area called Wadi Gaza to move south. This would mean the entire population of Gaza City and its surroundings fleeing their homes
Israel’s military sent one evacuation order directly on Friday morning, telling the 1.1 million people living north of an area called Wadi Gaza to move south. This would mean the entire population of Gaza City and its surroundings fleeing their homes.
According to translations of the IDF flyers online, the army told residents that ‘terrorist organisations have started the war against the State of Israel.’
As a result, it said ‘Gaza City has become a battlefield’ and told residents they had to evacuate ‘Punik immediately and go to the south of the Gaza Valley.’
It also issued a stark warning to Palestinians not to try and cross into Israel.
‘For your security and safety: You should not return to Piona until further notice by the Israel Defense Army,’ the flyers said. ‘Generally and well-known shelters in Gaza City must be evacuated. It is forbidden to approach the security wall, and everyone who is approaching exposes himself to death.’
A small map was also printed on the bottom of the flyer, with arrows pointing from the north of Gaza to the south, showing the 1.1 million Palestinians which way to flee.
The UN says it is impossible to move that many people without devastating humanitarian consequences, and has urged Israel to rescind the order.
The 2.3 million people living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are densely packed into a sliver of land that is just 25 miles long and 7 miles wide which is already largely without power and where hospitals are overwhelmed.
Israel has killed more than 1,530 people in Gaza with airstrikes and cut off food, water and electricity since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,300 in Israel.
Israel’s directive, which comes seven days after Hamas attacked Israel from Gaza, charged that Hamas terrorists were hiding in tunnels under the city.
Meanwhile, a Hamas official called the evacuation order ‘fake propaganda’, urged Palestinians to stay in their homes and not to ‘fall for it’.
The Hamas Authority for Refugee Affairs called on residents in the north of the territory to ‘remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation’.
The flurry of directives was taken as signalling an already expected Israeli ground offensive, though the Israeli military has not yet confirmed such a decision.
On Thursday it said that while it was preparing, no official decision has been made.
Any ground offensive would be the strongest response yet to Hamas’ shock assault, and would likely bring even higher casualties on both sides in brutal guerrilla warfare as Israeli soldiers go house-to-house and hunt down Hamas terrorists.
‘This evacuation is for your own safety,’ the Israeli military said, in a warning it said was sent to all Gaza City civilians.
The UN said it received a separate directive from the Israeli military shortly before midnight, giving all 1.1 million civilians of northern Gaza 24 hours to flee south.
It said the broad evacuation warning it received for all of Gaza’s north also applies to all UN staff and to the hundreds of thousands who have taken shelter in UN schools and other facilities since Israel launched round-the-clock airstrikes.
‘The UN considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences,’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
‘The United Nations strongly appeals for any such order, if confirmed, to be rescinded avoiding what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation,’ Dujarric said.
Another UN official said that the United Nations is trying to get clarity from Israeli officials at the senior most political level.
‘It’s completely unprecedented,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, spokesman of the Israel Defence Forces (lDF) said in a video update Friday that the evacuations were a ‘humanitarian step.’
‘The IDF calls for the evacuation of all civilians from Gaza City from their homes southwards for their own safety and protection and to move to the area south of the River Gaza.’
‘The Hamas terrorist organisation waged a war against the state of Israel and Gaza City is an area where military operations are taking place,’ he continued.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, spokesman of the Israel Defense Forces (lDF) said in a video update Friday that the evacuations were a ‘humanitarian step’
Smoke plumes billow during Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on October 12
A fireball erupts from an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on October 12
An Israeli army M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the border with Gaza in southern Israel on October 12
Palestinians stretcher an injured man following an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza Strip Thursday
Israeli tanks move near Gaza border as Israeli army deploys military vehicles around the Gaza Strip, Israel on October 12
Israeli tanks head towards the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel on Thursday
Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Shilo Rauchberger at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem
‘This evacuation is for your own safety. You will be able to return Gaza City only when another announcement permitting it is made.’
Conricus claimed the IDF has distributed a map showing Gaza City residents where to migrate and warned they should not go near any security fences.
‘Do not approach the border, only go south,’ he added, saying that they needed to distance themselves from Hamas members ‘who are using you as human shields.’
‘The IDF will continue to operate with significant force in Gaza City and will make significant efforts to avoid harming civilians.’
He said that civilians are ‘not our enemy’ and will not target them.
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari has said the army is aware that the evacuation of 1.1 million people will take time.
‘This is a war zone, we are trying to provide them the time and we are doing a lot of effort, and we understand it won’t take 24 hours,’ he said when asked a question about Israel’s timeframe by a BBC reporter.
He also pointed to Hamas telling civilians to ignore the order. ‘We understand the problem. Sad reality? It’s Hamas’ responsibility,’ he said.
As Israel pounds Gaza from the air, Hamas militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel, with attacks also coming from Hezbollah, in Lebanon to the north.
Amid concerns that the fighting could spread in the region, Syrian state media reported Israeli airstrikes on Thursday put two Syrian airports out of service.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ‘crush’ Hamas after the militants stormed into the country’s south on Saturday and massacred hundreds of people, including killings of children in their homes and young people at a music festival.
Amid grief and demands for vengeance among the Israeli public, the government is under intense pressure to topple Hamas rather than continuing to try to bottle it up in Gaza. However, the civilian toll is mounting.
Inas Hamdan, an officer at the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza City, said the order had sparked more chaos in the Gaza Strip.
‘No one understands what to do,’ she told a reporter with the Associated Press as she grabbed whatever she could throw into her bags as the panicked shouts of her relatives could be heard around her.
She said all the UN staff in Gaza City and northern Gaza had been told to evacuate south to Rafah, a city that sits on the southern border with Egypt.
Nebal Farsakh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Gaza City, said there was no way more than one million people could be safely moved that fast.
‘Forget about food, forget about electricity, forget about fuel. The only concern now is just if you’re make it, if you’re going to live,’ Farsakh said, breaking into sobs.
‘What will happen to our patients?’ she asked. ‘We have wounded, we have elderly, we have children who are in hospitals.’
Farsakh said many of the medics were refusing to evacuate hospitals and abandon patients. Instead, she said, they called their colleagues to say goodbye.
A view of an explosion following a strike by IDF fighter jets on Hamas targets at a location given as the Gaza Strip
Fire and smoke rise above buildings in Gaza City during an Israeli air strike early Friday
Destroyed and damaged buildings of the Islamic University are seen in the aftermath of Israeli strikes amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
The body of a Palestinian killed during Israeli air strikes is carried in a sheet on Thursday
Palestinians carrying their belongings flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes, on October 13
A boy carries a mattres as Palestinians with their belongings flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes, on October 13
Palestinians flash the V for victory sign as they flee to safer areas in Gaza City after Israeli air strikes, on October 13
Earlier, the Israeli military pulverised the Gaza Strip with airstrikes, prepared for a possible ground invasion and said its complete siege of the territory – which has left Palestinians desperate for food, fuel and medicine – would remain in place until Hamas militants free some 150 hostages taken during a grisly weekend incursion.
As the full scale of the horrors of the weekend were coming into focus, Israel’s military was ramping up preparations for a ground invasion, and Hamas was continuing to launch rockets into Israel.
‘Now is the time for war,’ said Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, as his country amassed tanks near the Gaza Strip.
Seeking to build support for its response, Israel’s government showed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO defense ministers graphic images of children and civilians they said Hamas had killed in a weekend rampage in Israel.
Blinken said they showed a baby ‘riddled with bullets,’ soldiers beheaded and young people burned in their cars.
‘It’s simply depravity in the worst imaginable way,’ he said. ‘It’s really beyond anything that we can comprehend.’
Israel has vowed to retaliate for the attack – the deadliest by Palestinian militants in Israeli history.
An armed Palestinian militant leading a man during the Supernova music festival
An armed Palestinian militant is seen walking around the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Reim in the Negev desert in southern Israel
Sitting on the back of a terrorist’s motorcycle, her outstretched arms pointing towards her helpless boyfriend, student Noa Argamani pleads for her life
Aftermath: Burnt-out and abandoned cars where revellers tried to escape the onslaught
At least 260 were killed in the massacre while many are still missing – either dead or taken hostage by the bloodthirsty militants
Family and friends of those taken hostage by Hamas during the attack on Israel react as they listen to speeches during a press conference on October 13
A tearful women is seen as family and friends of those taken hostage by Hamas during the Israel listen to speeches during a press conference on October 13
Family and friends of those taken hostage by Hamas during Saturday’s attack on Israel react as they listen to speeches during a press conference on October 13
Meanwhile, Hamas called on Palestinians to rise up on Friday in protest at Israel’s bombardment of the enclave, urging Palestinians to march to East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and clash with Israeli troops in the occupied West Bank.
Israel has responded so far by putting Gaza, home to 2.3 million people, under siege and launching a bombing campaign that destroyed whole neighborhoods.
‘Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,’ Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz said on social media.
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters Thursday that forces ‘are preparing for a ground maneuver’ should political leaders order one.
A ground offensive in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas and where the population is densely packed into a sliver of land only 25 miles long, would likely bring even higher casualties on both sides in brutal house-to-house fighting.
As Israel pounds Gaza from the air, Hamas militants have fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
Amid concerns that the fighting could spread in the region, Syrian state media reported that Israeli airstrikes on Thursday put two Syrian international airports out of service.
The relentless barrage on Gaza – which the military said has so far involved 6,000 munitions – left Palestinians running through streets, carrying their belongings and looking for safety
A strike Thursday afternoon in the Jabaliya refugee camp took down a residential building on families sheltering inside, killing at least 45 people, Gaza’s Interior Ministry said.
At least 23 of the dead were under the age of 18, including a month-old child, according to a list of the casualties.
The home belonging to the al-Shihab family was packed with relatives who had fled bombing in other areas. Neighbors said a second house was hit at the same time, but the toll was not immediately known.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
‘We can´t flee because anywhere you go, you are bombed,’ one neighbor, Khalil Abu Yahia, said. ‘You need a miracle to survive here.’
The number of people forced from their homes by the airstrikes soared 25% in a day, reaching 423,000 out of a population of 2.3 million, the U.N. said Thursday. Most crowded into U.N.-run schools.
Families were cutting down to one meal a day, said Rami Swailem, a 34-year-old lecturer at al-Azhar University, who had 32 relatives sheltering in his home. Water stopped coming to the building two days ago, and they have rationed what´s left in a tank on the roof.
Alaa Younis Abuel-Omrain has been staying in a U.N. school after a strike on her home killed eight members of her family – her mother, aunt, a sister, a brother and his wife and their three children. Most bakeries stopped producing bread for lack of electricity.
A shell goes off in the water off the beach of Gaza during an Israeli air strike
Palestinians evacuate wounded after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp on the southern Gaza Strip
Israel has vowed to ‘crush’ Hamas after gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist group stormed across the border and killed 1,300 people
‘Even if there is food in some areas, we can´t get to it because of strikes,’ she said.
On Wednesday, Gaza´s only power station ran out of fuel and shut down, leaving only lights powered by scattered private generators.
Hospitals, overwhelmed by a constant stream of wounded and running out of supplies, have only a few days worth of fuel before their power cuts off, aid officials say.
‘Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues,’ said Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Newborn incubators, kidney dialysis machines, X-ray equipment and more, are all dependent on power, he said.
Ambulance crews carrying bodies to the morgue at Gaza´s biggest hospital, Shifa, found no space left.
Dozens of full body bags were lined up in the hospital parking lot. Fourteen health facilities have been damaged in strikes, health officials said Thursday.
With Israel sealing off the territory, the only way in or out is through the crossing with Egypt at Rafah, but Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that airstrikes on Rafah have prevented it from operating.
Egypt has been trying to convince Israel and the United States to allow aid and fuel through the crossing.
People are seen around destroyed buildings and debris at the Al-Shate’e refugee camp after an Israeli airstrike
An explosion at a residential tower caused by Israeli bombing raids in the northern Gaza Strip
Israel is employing a new tactic of levelling whole neighborhoods, rather than just individual buildings.
Hecht, the military spokesman, said targeting decisions were based on intelligence on locations being used by Hamas and that civilians were warned.
‘Right now, we are focused on taking out their senior leadership,’ Hecht said. The military said strikes have hit Hamas´ elite Nukhba forces, including command centers used by the fighters in Saturday´s attack, and the home of a senior Hamas naval operative used to store weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ‘crush’ Hamas after the militants stormed into the country´s south on Saturday and massacred hundreds of people, including killings of children in their homes and young people at a music festival.
Netanyahu said Hamas’ atrocities included beheading soldiers and raping women, descriptions that could not immediately be independently confirmed.
Amid grief and demands for vengeance among the Israeli public, the government is under intense pressure to topple Hamas rather than continuing to try to bottle it up in Gaza.
In a video released Thursday, civilian Hamas figures defended the group´s rampage and decried the civilian deaths in Gaza from six days of Israeli airstrikes.
The solemn video lacked the bravado of a recording aired Saturday by Hamas´s military wing that hailed ‘the greatest battle’ as the massacres were still taking place.
Netanyahu said Hamas’ atrocities included beheading soldiers and raping women, descriptions that could not immediately be independently confirmed
Basem Naim, a former Hamas government minister, said that in the ‘swift collapse’ of the Israeli military on Saturday, ‘chaos prevailed and civilians found themselves in the middle of the confrontation.’
The claim is contradicted by countless videos and survivor accounts of Hamas militants deliberately targeting and killing civilians in Israel.
Naim added that there would be no action to free the 150 captives taken back into Gaza while Israel’s operation continued.
Israel was a nation in mourning. At a funeral for a 25-year-old woman killed with at least 260 other people at a desert rave, and at another service for a slain Israeli soldier, mourners sat cross-legged on the ground next to caskets, wailing or quietly weeping.
In Gaza, too, mourners buried families together in shrouds. At one funeral, they placed the battered body of a little girl in the arms of her slain father.