CHICAGO (WLS) — On a day when continuous bombing of Gaza cut off communication for the region’s 2.3 million people, an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Reservist from Northbrook told the I-Team he and his fellow soldiers are preparing for the next phase of the Israel-Hamas conflict: A ground invasion.
“I’m a light machine gunner, and I’m the first one in my team to be going into houses,” said Sgt. First Class Jonny Amram, a Glenbrook North High School graduate and Northbrook native who returned to duty right after the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7.
As Amram stands by, awaiting further commands, IDF officials said on Friday they are ramping up efforts to wipe out Hamas, the terrorist government of Gaza, including a potential ground operation.
In a broadcast show-and-tell, Israeli commanders made their case that a Hamas military headquarters has been located beneath a hospital, rendering Palestinian patients as human shields.
“We have concrete evidence that hundreds of terrorists flooded into the hospital to hide there after the massacre of October 7th,” said IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari. “Hamas uses [the] Shifa Hospital as a shield for Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”
Amid speculation Israel might target that hospital, or will soon begin a full ground attack, the United States is now urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to proceed with caution.
“We’re not dictating terms to them,” said John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council. “As you heard the President say the other day in the Rose Garden, if we can take some time to get more hostages out, that’s something we should be looking at.”
From the front lines, Amram told the I-Team he believes Israel’s actions are necessary.
“Hamas isn’t just bad for the Jewish state. It’s bad for the Gazans, for the civilians that are living there,” Amram said. “What’s up ahead of us is going to be a prolonged, meticulous breakdown of the Hamas regime and Gaza.”
Yet, some believe that’s already happening, including the United Nations.
At a news conference on Friday, officials with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spoke in great detail about the deteriorating conditions for Gazans and foreign nationals, including Americans, trapped in the region.
“Basic services are crumbling; Medicine is running out, food and water are running out,” said Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner General of the UNRWA. “The streets of Gaza have started overflowing with sewage. Gaza is on the brink of a massive health hazard and the risk of diseases are looming.”
As Amram’s unit prepares for a likely invasion, officials say there are concerns about Hamas commandos hiding in a maze of tunnels and the essential threat from urban warfare.
“It’s me that’s moving into houses and if the house is mined, or explosives in it, that could be very dangerous for me,” Amram explained. “That I’d be the first one to come in and encounter that or let alone a terrorist. So there are these fears that are very rational, that you can’t really part from.”
Amram said he proudly wears two hats: The American from suburban Chicago, raised on U.S. freedoms for 18 years, and the Jewish-Israeli resident for 12 years who is ready to fight in Gaza.
“I think that growing up in America, I was always so proud of the fact that as Americans, we really promote justice in the world and stand for what’s right,” Amram said. “This is the Jewish state and there is nowhere else. We have to protect it and that’s the reality of this.”
It’s a fight that comes at a high price.
On Friday, the death toll is approaching 9,000 people total in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, with the vast majority of casualties in Gaza. More than 25,000 people have been wounded so far in the Israel-Hamas conflict.