Ground offensive begins in Gaza

I am temporarily pausing the series titled Goliath to present information concerning the crisis in Israel and Gaza.

After days of waiting and deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the IDF to send ground troops into Gaza to strike the terror tunnels into Israel.
A statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had ordered the army to attack "terrorist infiltration tunnels", signalling that the ground offensive would be limited in scope.
"The prime minister and defence minister have instructed the IDF (Israel Defence Force) to begin a ground operation tonight (Thursday) in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel," the statement said.

Earlier the Israeli military had said that about a dozen Palestinian fighters tunnelled under the border into Israel, emerging near an Israeli community.

The statement said that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon directed the IDF to prepare to expand the ground operation. The statement said that the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected. In addition, the statement said, Hamas even fired rockets during the Thursday's five-hour humanitarian cease-fire.

“In light of Hamas' continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” the statement said.

The statement said that Operation Protective Edge, now in its 10th day, will continue until its goals are reached: restoring quiet for an extended period of time and delivering a significant blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza.

Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.

The ground invasion comes hours after a Hamas assault squad of thirteen highly armed terrorists attempted to carry out a massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Sufa, near the border, before being blocked by the IDF.

Infantry, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, artillery, and intelligence units are taking over various areas in Gaza, and are all working with one another and the air force. They are operating in northern, central, and southern Gaza, where Hamas has dug an extensive terrorist tunnel network.

The IDF's Southern Command is overseeing the ground offensive.
The units involved have undergone intensive training recently ahead of their missions, Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz, IDF spokesman, said on Thursday night.

"The operation has reached its ground phase," Almoz said. "Large numbers of forces began a focused effort to destroy tunnels in Gaza.
We are in a new stage," he stated. At the same time, the air force is continuing with air strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad around Gaza. The Ground Forces are currently engaging terrorist infrastructure, and the operation "will be expanded as needed," Almoz said. "They're moving now in various areas of Gaza. We will continue to attack in every location we think needs to be struck," he warned.

The IDF is currently calling up more reserves, Almoz added.
Palestinian sources said strikes occurred up and down the Strip, adding that one strike targeted a motorcycle apparently carrying members of a rocket launching cell on their way to an attack on Israel.
At around 10:00 p.m. rocket sirens sounded in the Tel Aviv area, and in the Shfela. Iron Dome made a number of interceptions in the Tel Aviv area.

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LATEST UPDATES

12 July Update on Israel and Hamas

Sirens continued to scream warnings throughout the day today in Israel during the night where the Sabbath has begun. As of nightfall Thursday night, over 350 rockets had been fired at Israel, with about 90 of them intercepted by the “Iron Dome.” Israel had conducted almost 900 airstrikes in Gaza.

Hamas has assaulted Israel from Gaza for the last 13 years with their hatred and weaponry. Israel has responded with aggressive action twice before in the last five years.
In 2009 they conducted Operation Cast Lead and in 2012, Operation Pillar of Defense.  In an article on Israel Hayom, Avi Dichter, (former internal security and home front defense minister for Israel, director of Shin Bet security agency, and Knesset member) writes-
Indeed, no civilians anywhere in the world, including in President Barack Obama's United States, would agree to live like this for 13 years, without exerting their right to defend themselves at any cost. The window of opportunity that has now been opened to Israel makes it possible to initiate a strategic move, to destroy the military infrastructure of the terrorist groups in Gaza -- Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

He believes the time for a strategic campaign has come for Israel, something that will last not a matter of weeks or months, but perhaps years.  “Without destroying the terrorists’ military infrastructure in Gaza we will continue living from one round of shooting to the next, as the time in between rounds decreases and the range of the rockets increases,” he says. 

Though some in Israel are complaining of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lack of speed and decisiveness of action, The Times of Israel has reported that the PM has “warned Israelis to brace for a lengthy conflict.” What some may call indecisiveness may be a firm determination to step wisely into a serious long-haul solution that will ensure this recurring threat does not resurface in the future.

Meanwhile, Israel is seeing support from around the world. The Jerusalem Post reports that in a conversation yesterday between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president “reiterated the United States’ strong condemnation of continuing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks.”

The US State Department clearly places the blame on Hamas for this most recent rocket war, as revealed when spokeswoman Jen Psaki addressed a number of questions posed by a Palestinian journalist in a recent press conference. The Times of Israel notes her reply:  “‘I would remind you who is at fault here,’ she told reporters, ‘and that is Hamas.’”

Hamas has declared they will not stop the rocket fire and is now demanding the release of 56 terrorists from Israeli prisons. Netanyahu declared, “I will end [Operation Protective Edge] when the missile threat is over.” 

Toward the manipulative play on Israel’s decency by Hamas placing their military sites amidst Gaza’s civilian population, Netanyahu “accused Hamas and Islamic Jihad members of ‘hiding behind civilians’ saying they were responsible if any harm comes to them.” It is believed that Hamas leaders are once again hiding under Gaza’s main hospital, an accusation Israeli officials made during the 2012 battle.

To make matters worse, two rockets appear to have been fired into Israel from her northern neighbor Lebanon, home of Hezbollah, another terrorist organization aimed at the destruction of Israel.

JULY 16 Update:

Israel resumes air strikes on Gaza after ceasefire breaks down as Hamas rocket attacks continued

Rocketss being launched from civilian populated areas
The image above shows smoke from rockets fired from what is obviously civiliain populated areas of Gaza City toward Israel.

Israel has resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, six hours after agreeing to an Egyptian-proposed truce that failed to halt Hamas rocket attacks.

"Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza. As a result, we have resumed our operation against Hamas," an Israeli military statement said.

Under a blueprint announced by Egypt, a mutual "de-escalation" of week-old fighting was to have begun at 9:00am Tuesday (local time), with hostilities ceasing within 12 hours.

Hamas's armed wing rejected the ceasefire, saying its battle with Israel would "increase in ferocity and intensity".

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to ramp up his country's military campaign against Gaza, after the truce plan failed to end eight days of cross-border fire.
"This would have been better resolved diplomatically, that's what we tried to do when we accepted the Egyptian truce proposal today," he said. "But Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it."

But Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official who was in Cairo, had said the movement, which is seeking a deal that would ease border restrictions imposed by both Egypt and Israel, had made no final decision on the proposal.

Local television showed Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting several rockets over the port city of Ashdod, where a factory was hit. Emergency services said no-one was hurt.

Sirens also sounded in areas up to 130 kilometres north of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in Vienna, US secretary of state John Kerry supported Israel. "I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets, in multiple numbers, in the face of a goodwill effort [to secure] a ceasefire," he said.

Palestinian leader urged factions to respect ceasefire. Gaza health officials said at least 192 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in eight days of fighting, the worst Israel-Palestinian flare-up in two years.

Mr Netanyahu, whose security cabinet had voted 6-2 to accept the truce, had cautioned that Israel would respond strongly if rockets continued to fly.

An Israeli official, speaking as the air strikes resumed, said: "The prime minister and the defence minister have ordered the Israeli armed forces to take powerful action against terrorist targets in Gaza."

Earlier, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said demands the movement had made must be met before it laid down its weapons.

Other Palestinian militant groups - Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - also said they had not yet agreed to the Egyptian offer.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who reached an agreement with Hamas in April that led to the formation of a unity government last month, urged acceptance of the proposal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Israel says ground invasion still a possibility. Israel had mobilised tens of thousands of troops for a threatened Gaza invasion if the rocket volleys persisted.

"We still have the possibility of going in, under cabinet authority, and putting an end to [the rockets]," said Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official.

Under the proposal announced by Egypt's foreign ministry, high-level delegations from Israel and the Palestinian factions would hold separate talks in Cairo within 48 hours to consolidate the ceasefire with "confidence-building measures".

Hamas leaders have said any deal must include an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza and a recommitment to a truce reached in an eight-day war there in 2012.

Hamas also wants Egypt to ease curbs at its Rafah crossing with Gaza imposed after the military ousted president Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist, a year ago.

The Egyptian proposal made no mention of Rafah or when restrictions might be eased.

Hamas has faced a cash crisis and Gaza's economic hardship has deepened as a result of Egypt's destruction of cross-border smuggling tunnels.

Egyptian authorities also accuse Hamas of assisting anti-government Islamist militants in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, an allegation the Palestinian group denies.

Hamas has said it also wants the release of hundreds of its activists arrested in the West Bank while Israel searched for the three missing teenagers.

The proposed truce also made no mention of the detainees.

Adnan Abu Amer, a political analyst in Gaza, said it appeared that Egypt had deliberately ensured that their initiative would fall short of Hamas's demands, in an attempt bid to make the movement look rejectionist.

"Egypt stood by Israel's side, as if it was trying to punish Hamas and give Israel some time to pursue its military campaign," he said.

The surge in hostilities over the past week was prompted by the murder last month of three Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank and the revenge killing on July 2 of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem.


Continued

Hamas bombarded Israel on Thursday with rockets after the end of the humanitarian truce, firing over 100 projectiles after 3 p.m.
Eighty one rockets landed in open areas, two fell inside villages, damaging two homes, and 20 were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system.

Also on Thursday, a drone from Gaza was detected in Israeli airspace, over the Ashkelon area. The IAF fired a patriot surface-to-air missile at the aircraft, shooting it down. It was the second Hamas drone to be shot down in recent days.

The IDF on Thursday warned citizens of Gaza to evacuate their homes (click here for more information) and make their way from less populated areas to the Strip's major cities.

Close to 100,000 leaflets containing the message were dropped over the territory and hundreds of thousands of citizens from all over Gaza received recorded phone messages warning them to vacate villages.

Air raid sirens sounded throughout southern and central areas during the day. Ashkelon and Ashdod were targeted by Hamas repeatedly in the evening, and were successfully defended by Iron Dome.
Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over central Israel and the Sharon district in the evening, and one over the city of Ashdod. Several rockets landed in open areas.

The Gaza-border region of Eshkol came under continuous rocket barrages. Some ten rockets in open areas, and one damaged a home.

Between 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Hamas fired 40 rockets at Israel, and Iron Dome shot three down.

Two rockets were fired at Beersheba, with one falling in an open area and a second intercepted over the Negev city.

Within a minute of the ceasefire ending, rockets were fired from Gaza at the Ashkelon industrial area and Hof Ashkelon region. Most fell in open areas.

The humanitarian ceasefire was violated when Hamas fired 3 projectiles at the Eshkol region. The rockets exploded in open areas.

On Thursday morning, one rocket was intercepted over the greater Tel Aviv and Sharon district, and one rocket fell in an open area. In Beersheba, Iron Dome intercepted an incoming Gazan rocket.

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