Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona expecting difficult ground war in Gaza after visit to Israel

Oct 19, 2023, 1:00 PM

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Yassin Mosque destroyed after it was hit by an Israeli airst...

Palestinians inspect the rubble of the Yassin Mosque destroyed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike at Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, early Monday, Oct. 9, 2023. U.S. Sen Mark Kelly of Arizona expects a treacherous ground war. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

(AP Photo/Adel Hana)

PHOENIX — With an Israeli ground invasion into the Gaza Strip a growing possibility, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona is anticipating a challenging fight as tensions continue to rise.

Kelly joined a bipartisan group of senators for a visit to Israel on Sunday, an experience he described as “very impactful” after meeting with top-ranking country officials.

“This is a hard problem and when you consider the tunnel system that Hamas has built, it’s going to be a complicated ground war and there are a lot of ways you can prosecute this problem,” Kelly told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday.

Kelly said between the difficult terrain and amount of civilian Palestinians residing in Gaza who are not members of the terrorist group Hamas, the challenges will be plentiful.

The Democrat said he advised Israeli leaders to remember that hundreds of thousands of civilians occupy areas that could be invaded.

“They need to go after Hamas. They need to be serious about it, eliminate it,” Kelly said. “At the same time, we do not want to see a humanitarian crisis.”

Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with airstrikes on Thursday, including in the south where Palestinians were told to take refuge, and the country’s defense minister told ground troops to “be ready” to invade, though he didn’t say when.

The Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza in retaliation for a devastating Hamas rampage in southern Israel almost two weeks ago. Even after Israel told Palestinians to evacuate the north of Gaza and flee south, strikes extended across the area, heightening fears among the territory’s 2.3 million people that nowhere was safe.

“This was a horrific attack from Hamas, a terrorist attack like we haven’t seen in a long time,” Kelly said. “You got to equate this with ISIS [the Islamic State Group] and we were there to give our support and talk to them specifically about what is what is next how we can help.”

Does Kelly believe other groups will attempt to escalate Israel-Hamas war?

There are threats from other groups in the region to amplify the war, Kelly said.

Hezbollah militants in Lebanon on Thursday said they fired missiles into northern Israel, hitting a kibbutz. The Israeli military said no one was injured and responded with shelling on border areas in Lebanon. Hamas militants also fired 30 rockets from southern Lebanon toward Israeli towns. Violence on the border comes amid fears the Hamas-Israel conflict could spread across the region.

Kelly said it would unwise for others, including Hezbollah, to enter the fray.

“I mean, if Hezbollah thinks they’re going to somehow drag us into this, they would be making a huge mistake,” Kelly said. “This is also a deterrent for Iran. Iran, by the way, has supported Hamas and have given them the material support to conduct these attacks.

“So I caution other countries in getting involved here, but we have the ability to protect ourselves with the ability to protect our allies.”

What other threats exist during the Israel-Hamas war?

Kelly was among over 100 members of the House and Senate who sent a letter to security officials regarding reports that Hamas raised millions of dollars in cryptocurrency leading up to the Oct. 7 Israel attack.

The group wants the Biden administration to figure out how to lessen crypto-financed terrorism, which can skirt U.S. sanctions.

“It’s hard to track that stuff so we’ve got to put much stronger restrictions in place to stop crypto being used for not only terrorist activities, which is what we’re seeing here, but other listed activities,” Kelly said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona expecting difficult ground war in Gaza after visit to Israel