Israel’s Security Cabinet yesterday evening ordered the beginning of a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip as Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel, having also attempted to use tunnels to infiltrate and attack Israel.
The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a limited ground operation, saying that the aim is “to damage the underground terror tunnels constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory.” Yesterday morning, Israeli forces foiled an attempt by 13 Hamas terrorists to tunnel into Israel and launch an attack. The statement added that the objective of Operation Protective Edge remains to “restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come, while significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.” Rocket attacks also continued yesterday with more than 50 rockets launched at southern and central Israel following the end of a five hour humanitarian ceasefire at 3pm and the ground operation commencing.
The IDF said that infantry, tanks, engineering, artillery and intelligence units are involved in the ground operation. Following a brief lull in rocket fire when the incursion commenced, the Iron Dome anti-missile system subsequently intercepted five rockets over Ofakim and additional missiles over Ashkelon and Ashdod. The Israeli army said that it had killed 14 Hamas terrorists overnight and struck 103 targets including six command centres and 20 concealed rocket launchers. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded in the fighting while reports and an Israeli soldier, identified as Sergeant Eitan Barak, had been killed. In a further development, Israel’s government approved the call-up of a further 18,000 army reservists.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Health Ministry says that 20 Palestinians were killed overnight. Reuters reports that there were heavy clashes in the northern Gaza towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said that “Israel will pay a high price” for its ground incursion and that, “It is bound to fail.”