News / Middle East

Israel Carrying Out Ground Offensive In Gaza

  • An Israeli rocket is fired into the northern Gaza Strip, July 17, 2014.
  • An Israeli tank maneuvers to take a position along the Israel-Gaza Border,July 17, 2014.
  • Palestinians watch as workers at the hospital morgue prepare the bodies of four members of the al-Astal family, who were killed by an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, July 17, 2014.
  • An Israeli tank takes its position along the Israel-Gaza border, July 17, 2014.
  • An Israeli soldier looks through the scope of his weapon outside the southern Gaza Strip, July 17, 2014.
  • A Palestinian girl walks with a toy that she salvaged from debris of the el-Yazje apartment building that was destroyed in an overnight Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, July 17, 2014.
  • A TV screen shows the ongoing fighting between Israel and Gaza at the entrance to a coffee shop, in downtown, July, 2014, Tel Aviv, Israel.
  • A Palestinian man walks through a market in Gaza City, July 17, 2014.
  • Relatives of Dror Chanin, 37, who was fatally wounded when a mortar exploded near the his vehicle, cry during his funeral in Yahud, Israel, July 16, 2014.
  • A man walks past the el-Yazje family apartment building which was destroyed following an overnight Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, July 17, 2014.
VOA News

Thousands of Israeli soldiers began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip late Thursday, escalating a 10-day military operation that aims to destroy Hamas' offensive capabilities, including the group's weapons arsenal and tunnels that infiltrate Israel's territory.

The Israeli military said the operation was open-ended but limited in its scope, and would be carried out in several areas of the coastal strip.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that the Israeli cabinet had approved the ground incursion, and that it came after Israeli forces stopped an attempted attack by 13 Hamas gunmen who tried to enter southern Israel through a tunnel earlier Thursday.

The statement said when Israel repelled the earlier incursion, it averted what it characterized as “a mass terrorist attack against Israeli civilians.”

On Thursday, the Israeli military said 18,000 reserve soldiers would be mobilized to join the tens of thousands already called up.

The result is a substantial ground force, according to Daniel Nisman, president of the Levantine political risk consulting group in Tel Aviv.
 
"We're talking about a considerable number of forces, at least, from what I understand, five infantry brigades, a large amount of armored tanks, combat engineers, and of course they're all supported by aerial drones, the navy and a good amount of artillery," Nisman said.

"It will deal a decisive blow to Hamas' tunnel capabilities, but it will not make any sort of difference to their rocket capabilities or their command and control capabilities," he added.

An Israeli military spokesman said Israel was not attempting to topple the Hamas Islamist group that rules Gaza. Such a move would likely require sending troops into densely populated Gaza City, resulting in urban warfare and huge casualty numbers for both sides.

Hamas said Israel will suffer terrible consequences for carrying out the offensive.

The Gaza ground invasion came after 10 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas. Israel has carried out airstrikes on more than 2,000 targets in Gaza, and Hamas has launched more than 1,000 rockets at Israel.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel from Friday to Sunday to try to defuse the situation, and will discuss putting a European mission on the Gaza-Israel border, a diplomatic source told Reuters on Thursday.

Fabius will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo on Friday as part of his three-day trip.

He will meet Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on Sunday, the source told Reuters.

Power cuts, deserted streets

Witnesses and Gaza residents reported heavy artillery and naval shelling along the Gaza border. News reports said all power had been cut in Gaza City as of late Thursday.

Earlier in the day, a U.N. official said Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and Hamas rocket fire directed at Israel resumed after a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire expired Thursday. U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories James Rawley said the truce was respected for the most part by all parties, but attacks resumed as soon as it expired.

"Rockets have been going out of Gaza and airstrikes and naval bombardment has resumed on Gaza," he said, "so once again the people of Gaza are suffering and probably dying, and the people of Israel are also being victimized by rockets and mortars going out of Gaza."

The streets of Gaza have been virtually deserted since Israeli military operations targeting Hamas began last week, as residents have stayed home or have sought protection at U.N. schools.
 
But for a brief time during Thursday's truce, Rawley said, citizens were able to go shopping or go to the bank, while some vital repairs were done to electrical and water facilities.
 
"It only was a pause of five hours, it was respected for the most part by all parties, which is good," he said, "but it is a pity that as soon as the pause is over, the hostilities have resumed."

U.S. response

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki asked Israel to redouble efforts to prevent civilian casualties. She described an attack that killed four Palestinian children playing on a Gaza beach as "horrifying."

Mourners in Gaza buried three of the Palestinian children Thursday. Israeli officials called the deaths "tragic" and said they were investigating.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underscored in a telephone call with Netanyahu on Wednesday that "there's more that can be done" by Israel to avoid civilian casualties and that it must redouble its efforts, Psaki said.

But even while stepping up U.S. pressure for Israeli restraint, Psaki reasserted Washington's condemnation of Hamas's "indiscriminate rocket attacks" targeting Israeli civilians and affirmed U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself.

More than 220 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, while one Israeli citizen has died.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported 20 rockets were discovered hidden in a vacant school in Gaza. A statement from UNRWA said this was the first time weapons have been found in their facilities.
 
Egypt talks

Meanwhile, talks for a broader truce are being held in Egypt, but Israeli and Hamas officials had backed away from earlier media reports that a deal had been reached.

Palestinian, Egyptian, Israeli and U.S. officials said discussions were underway on terms for a cease-fire, but a high-level Israeli delegation returned to Israel early Thursday pessimistic about the chances for peace.

The decision to begin a ground operation on Thursday night began to take shape at that point, according to Israeli media.

Israel previously agreed to an Egyptian-backed deal that called for an immediate end to the fighting, the eventual easing of border restrictions and further talks hosted by Cairo.
 
Hamas rejected the deal, saying their leaders had not been consulted and it did not address other conditions such as Israel's long-standing blockade of Gaza. 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded to the operation by urging Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties. He said a dangerous conflict has now escalated further.   

VOA's Gabe Joselow contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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Comments page of 2
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by: meanbill from: USA
July 17, 2014 10:51 AM
A ceasefire without Israel concessions, would be a Gaza Palestinian surrender, (and all the Gaza martyrs killed by the Israeli's, would have died for nothing), and draw that line in the sand, telling the Israeli's, you can make Gaza one great Palestinian graveyard, or end the Israeli Gaza occupation, (and then), we'll start negotiations for the return of the occupied Palestinian territories, to form a Palestinian state....

IF Israel won't give the occupied Gaza concessions, and refuses to agree to negotiate on returning the occupied Palestinian territories, (then, and only then), the Gaza Palestinians must make their final stand..... Let the Gaza Palestinians stand on their rooftops, and shout out to the Israeli's and the world, take my home, and my little piece of land, (but only after), taking it from over my dead body....

In Response

by: Eric from: USA
July 17, 2014 4:08 PM
Perhaps because Israel left Gaza years ago yet the violence hasn't stopped. For strategic and tactical reasons, it hasn't been possible. Israel doesn't want to be in a continuous war with its neighbors. However, Hamas has only one goal, to see Israel wiped from the map. They have no interest in peace. They have no problem putting their own people in harms way and use them as political pawns.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 17, 2014 1:06 PM
Do you ever realize that this land was first taken from the Jews during one of their numerous exiles? How did it become a Palestinian land? You must be a muslim from your antecedent and hatred of the Jews, is there anywhere in your koran you find the land called the of the Palestinians instead of the land of the Jews? Now you advice the Palestinians to support Hamas and shoot at Israel, they will only die, and the world continues.

Since the world on which you islamists so resolutely rely for support has failed to bring you the needed succor, why not try a path of peace in the alternative rather than follow your foolhardy fighting someone absolutely stronger than you? Or have you no way of exclaiming like your predecessors who fought the Jews in history, when the sun stood still until Gideon had defeated your ancestors who confessed, "truly God is with this people (Israel)".


by: ifthikar from: uae
July 17, 2014 10:44 AM
usa is not a honest mediater for the palestine issue.egypt should intervene and help the palastine to end the conflict

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 17, 2014 1:58 PM
HELLO? .. Sisi sold his soul to Saudi Arabia and the US, who will do what that the Israeli's want, and the only deal he offered the Gaza Palestinians was a ceasefire, and negotiations with Israel in Egypt, with (no) prior Israeli concessions..... Egypt is owned now by Saudi Arabia, and the US, and now Israel....


by: joblo from: canada
July 17, 2014 10:01 AM
I thought the Palestinians were originally Canaanites. No no no they were the Philistines. Somebody told me that the Palestinians were the present day Israelis until Nasser decided on a name change. Now with a ahem cease fire the whoever it is in Gaza can go back to restocking.

In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 17, 2014 12:54 PM
They are either the Amalekites of the Philistines.

In Response

by: thhdhn from: ha vn
July 17, 2014 12:01 PM
Philistines, Palestinians , sound alike


by: Dingos Breakfast
July 17, 2014 8:41 AM
All a ceasefire will do is allow Hamas to stock up on weapons and carry on where they left off.

In Response

by: Mr.Scott from: SE Ohio
July 17, 2014 11:05 AM
I agree as well.

In Response

by: Frank from: USA
July 17, 2014 10:58 AM
Palestine must fight for their land against the terrorist Zionist state that stole from them, my forefathers fight the powerful British and won, South Africans fight the powerful white racists tyranny and won... the Zionist racist regimen will be defeated, no doubt about, the count down just started, more powerful they look, the fall will be more crushing.

In Response

by: Marietta Alexander
July 17, 2014 10:22 AM
I agree, the militants are continuing to fire missiles in spite of the temporary cease-fire. You cannot trust them at all; they are completely irrational.


by: jabez from: chennai(india)
July 17, 2014 8:02 AM
Hamas probably realized, anymore shelling and there will be no philistine civilization.....

In Response

by: Mr.Scott from: SE Ohio
July 17, 2014 11:07 AM
I don't think they care. What better way to get close to that point and draw others into the conflict.


by: Joe from: United States
July 17, 2014 7:33 AM
I hear that after the "humanitarian truce", they went back to bombing and killing each other senselessly.

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