News / Middle East

Israeli Commandos Briefly Enter Gaza

  • Palestinians carry the body of Islamic Jihad militant Mohammed Sowelim, who was killed in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral in Jabaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 12, 2014.
  • Palestinians walk around the ruins of the Al-Tawfeeq Mosque after it was hit by an overnight Israeli missile strike in the Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, July 12, 2014.
  • Palestinians mourn their relative in the morgue of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City on July 12, 2014.
  • Palestinians wash blood from a sidewalk where seven Palestinians where killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, July 12, 2014.
  • Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a cargo terminal at Karni Crossing between Israel and Gaza after it was shelled by Israeli tanks, according to terminal's employees, July 12, 2014.
  • A Palestinian carries a damaged wheelchair as he walks amidst the debris of a rehabilitation center, which police said was struck by a shell from an Israeli tank, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 12, 2014.
  • Israelis take cover in a shelter as a siren warning of incoming rockets is heard around the southern city of Beersheba, Israel, July 12, 2014.
  • An Israeli hugs his child outside a shelter as a siren warning of incoming rockets is heard around the southern city of Beersheba, Israel, July 12, 2014.
  • Israelis salvage belongings from a house of their relative after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip Saturday in the southern city of Beersheba, Israel, July 12, 2014.
  • Israeli soldiers on an armored personnel carrier move to a new position on the Israel-Gaza Border, July 12, 2014.
VOA News

Israel briefly deployed ground troops inside the Gaza Strip for the first time early Sunday as its military warned northern Gaza residents to evacuate their homes, part of a widening offensive that began against Hamas last week.

Neither Israel nor Palestinian militants show signs of agreeing to a cease-fire, despite calls by the United Nations Security Council and others to end the increasingly bloody six-day offensive that has claimed at least 160 Palestinian lives.

Several Israelis have been wounded in the rocket attacks, but there have been no fatalities.

With Israel massing tanks and soldiers at Gaza's borders, some fear that could signal a wider ground offensive that would cause heavy casualties.

Officials said Israeli commandos targeted a rocket-launching site Sunday during the brief raid. Authorities said four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded during an exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters.

Israel also continued its airstrikes, targeting areas across Gaza early Sunday, ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire as the conflict entered its sixth day.

“We don't know when the operation will end,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Cabinet meeting Sunday. “It might take a long time.”

An Israel strike overnight flattened the home of the Gaza police chief, killing at least 18 people in the deadliest attack since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza Tuesday.

The strike also badly damaged a nearby mosque, wounding scores of people.  Some worshippers are still believed to be trapped in the rubble.

An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.
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An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.
An Israeli police explosives expert carries the remains of a rocket that landed in Ashkelon, Israel, July 13, 2014.

An earlier airstrike Saturday also hit a mosque. Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Libby Weiss said the building was being used by Hamas militants. 

"It's important to note that this was a mosque that was used almost entirely for Hamas operations. Meaning as a structure perhaps, yes it was a mosque, but it was very clear that it was being used, and I would say almost hijacked by Hamas for terror purposes," Weiss said.
 
The United Nations humanitarian affairs office has said the majority of Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes since operations began have been civilians.
 
Several Israeli citizens have been wounded by Palestinian rockets, which are being launched at longer range than in previous conflicts. Israeli defense forces credit their Iron Dome missile defense system, which intercepts rockets in mid-air, with preventing greater casualties.
 
Netanyahu said Friday Israel is considering all military options despite international calls for a cease-fire.

On Sunday, Netanyahu blamed Hamas for the ongoing military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying responsibility for any casualties lies with the Palestinian militants.

Israel also accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there.

Netanyahu went on to blame Iran for funding, arming and training Hamas, saying that the meeting in Vienna on Iran's nuclear program must prevent the Iranians from developing a nuclear weapon.

If they fail to do so, Netanyahu said, "What is happening around here and what is happening in the Middle East, will be several times worse or maybe beyond that."

Britain, France and Turkey have expressed concerns about the loss of life in Gaza. U.S. President Barack Obama said the U.S. is willing to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities, while backing "Israel's right to defend itself.

Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, head of a Palestinian academic society in Jerusalem (PASSIA), said both Israeli and Palestinian leadership have shown little willingness to back down.

"Netanyahu is refusing any reconciliation, any negotiations, any halting of the operations and he is carrying on the mission as usual," Hadi said. "The same thing, Hamas is going forward as planned, saying whatever will happen will happen to all of us."
 
Israel claims to have hit more than 1,100 targets inside Gaza since operations began. The military has called up more than 30,000 reservists and is now weighing whether to begin ground operations in Gaza.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to the Middle East on Monday, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said, where he will meet Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, German media reported.

Steinmeier called for an end to “Hamas rocket terror,” in comments to newspaper Bild am Sonntag published on Sunday, and urged a “coalition of reason” to stop the conflict escalating.

UN calls for cease-fire

The U.N. Security Council called for a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a statement Saturday, the 15-member council called for a de-escalation of the violence, a restoration of calm, and a reinstitution of a 2012 Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between the two sides.

This is the first official response to the crisis by the powerful U.N. body, which has been divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian officials say the death toll from Israel's offensive has risen to about 160, with Israel continuing to strike sites believed to be strategic to Hamas and other militant groups.

WATCH: Gaza Fighting Takes Civilian Toll - report by Zlatica Hoke

Gaza Fighting Takes Civilian Tolli
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Zlatica Hoke
July 12, 2014 10:47 AM
Fighting between Hamas forces in Gaza and Israel's military has left about 100 people dead in the coastal Mediterranean strip, most of them civilians. Israelis living close to the border with Gaza have a well-developed system of air raids and bomb shelters where they retreat as needed. In Gaza, there are no sirens and no bomb shelters. Zlatica Hoke reports on how civilians on both sides are faring fare during the conflict.

Gabe Jaselow contributed to this report from Jerusalem. Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comments page of 2
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by: Anthonybellchambers from: London UK
July 12, 2014 9:58 AM
This is NOT a war about Palestinian rockets - this is a war about illegal settlements, stolen land and 500,000 Israeli settlers

* The BBC has just reported 123 Palestinians killed by the IDF of which more than 75% were civilians. Plus the killing of two patients unable to walk and the serious injuring of four others in a home for the disabled. (12/07 -1321hrs)

The only way now to stop Netanyahu's horrific killing of innocent men, women and children in Gaza is to stop Israel's preferential trade with Europe. The EU Parliament should take immediate steps to abrogate the Israel Association Agreement the provisions of which Israel is in gross contempt.

Stop bilateral trade with Europe and Netanyahu becomes impotent overnight and the bully of the Middle East will revert to being just another politician of a small state with F16 bombers (albeit with a secret nuclear weapons arsenal that it cannot use because it would irradiate its own cities).

Then the horrific killing of innocents, by a US-congress-backed IDF, will be an atrocity unlikely to be repeated.

This is NOT a war about Palestinian rockets - this is a war about illegal settlements, stolen land, 500,000 Israeli settlers and the wholesale killing of innocent men, women and children - families just like yours and mine. Palestinians are human beings and bleed just like Christians.

In the face of this continuing atrocity, the world and the UN must act.
In Response

by: Duncan from: USA
July 13, 2014 9:47 AM
The Arab "Palestinian" population of the area were mainly squatters at the time Israel declared statehood. They never have been a nation. The land IS Israel's and if the Euro trash decide not to do business with Israel then she can sell her newfound gas wealth and hi tech wonders to others. Israel will survive despite the hate against her by the foul ilk of this world today.
In Response

by: eri from: USA
July 13, 2014 9:43 AM
First, Israel pulled out of Gaza yet Games didn't provide a lasting peace. Second, you fail to mention why Israel occupies the West Bank. Very one sided comment. You also fail to mention that Muslims kill hundreds, sometimes thousands of Muslims every day yet they are silent. They would never warn civilians to leave as civilians are their targets. Only because of Israeli technology being so far advanced is loss of life so low. There's plenty of blame on both sides.

by: A Martin
July 12, 2014 7:47 AM
Why does the headline call it an "offensive"?

Hamas attacked Israel...and continues to attack Israel...and Israel. Israel is defending itself...as any country would.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 13, 2014 9:54 AM
its called an offensive instead of sitting back and not attacking, israel moved forward with the ground units and attacked
In Response

by: D Barrett from: Malibu, CA
July 13, 2014 9:41 AM
Right, Israel's should just let the Palestinians fire at will and pray God will protect them. After WWII we thought anti-semitism was wiped off the face of the Earth. Since Arabs are semitic we may as well call it by its real name: Jew Hatred. Its been here for 2,000 years and the ONLY evidence is a text written 90 years after the fact. Now isn't that some basis for killing 6 million Jews in WWII, and (scholars differ) about 12 million in the past two millennia. So I ask my Christian brothers and sisters: Did Jesus ever advocate killing millions of people simply because they disagree with him?
In Response

by: Maithe from: Paris, france
July 12, 2014 1:38 PM
I agree with you A. Martin.
VOA you do have a very serious problem with headlines ....
Something else: it's interesting to hear your comments coming from somebody sitting in Washington and probably watching some arabic TV.
Journalists ?? Come on !! Where are you VOA ???

by: Daniel from: Goleta
July 12, 2014 7:41 AM
Biased much, VOA? Israel is not on the offensive; what do you do when your neighbor, sworn by charter to destroy your people, kidnap and kill 3 school boys, then launch a 100 missile / day salvo of rockets at civilian populations? Should Israelis go like lambs to the slaughter? Why doesn't Israel have a right to defend her citizens?
The violence could stop if Hamas stops shooting; the Israeli government is quite clear.

by: Bruce Edwards from: New York
July 12, 2014 7:37 AM
The fine folks of HAMAS have given their own citizens the crappy hell of war for BUPKIS. Peace can mean prosperity. Offer a lot and be surprised of what may come. Take a chance with an olive branch instead of the knife. Now you have less than nothing. Half a loaf is only a start. Play to the good and get a lot

by: Robert Riversong from: Vermont USA
July 12, 2014 7:33 AM
“Israel uses sophisticated attack jets and naval vessels to bomb densely-crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums to attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no heavy weapons, no artillery units, no mechanized armor, no command in control, no army and calls it a war. It is not war. It is murder.” – Noam Chomsky
In Response

by: Robert Riversong from: Vermont USA
July 13, 2014 12:31 PM
@ sharon from KY:

Hamas had been maintaining the 2012 cease-fire agreement until Israel rounded up 400 Hamas leaders in the West Bank, including democratically-elected representatives and many of those who were previously released in swap for Gilad Shalit, without warrants or probable cause.

This was a deliberate provocation by Israel to undermine the Fatah/Hamas reconciliation and prevent a two-state solution.
In Response

by: sharon from: ky
July 13, 2014 11:41 AM
Hamas kept firing rockets into Israel and Israel warned them to stop, or else. Hamas continued and now are crying foul when they see Israel is more advanced than they thought and holding their own. If Hamas calls a ceasefire Israel will be more than happy to do it. They were warned..
In Response

by: Robert Riversong from: Vermont USA
July 13, 2014 9:55 AM
@eric: By your "(il)logic, the Native Americans should not have bothered to resist guns with their bows and arrows and should have simply acquiesced to colonial usurpation of their lands and being imprisoned in reservations.
In Response

by: eric from: USA
July 13, 2014 9:47 AM
Then don't attack someone you know is superior. That's plain stupidity then you blame Israel. Stop the rockets and so will Israel. Otherwise don't start a gun fight with a knife.
In Response

by: Robert Riversong from: Vermont USA
July 12, 2014 4:05 PM
Godwin, International law recognizes resistance to foreign occupation as one of the very few legitimate uses of violence, and regards foreign occupation and annexation to be illegal, as it is for an occupying power to target civilians.

Calling Hamas "terrorists" is just as perverse as the Redcoats calling the American Minutemen "terrorists" because they engaged in asymmetrical guerrilla warfare.

National independence movements rarely, if ever, give up in the face of superior firepower and not infrequently defeat great superpowers, as the Vietnamese did to the United States.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 12, 2014 3:02 PM
Robert Riversong from: Vermont USA, please tell your fellow terrorists in Gaza to stop the aggression against those they know are greater than them in everything, including in sophisticated weapons. Only in so doing will Israel stop deploying its sophisticated war machine against them, numskull.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 12, 2014 7:31 AM
The situation can best be described as Middle East in turmoil. There is war in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Israel-Palestine-Lebanon-Syria axis, and we cannot say that Lebanon is not in war just because there is no shooting going on there, with Hezbollah always ready to shoot at Israel with or without provocation, as well as it is ready to restart the Lebanese civil war. Egypt and Turkey are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. There is an ongoing campaign of ISIS against shia islam in the region. Whether this is a fallout of the Arab Spring is yet unknown, but what is clear is that it is either by sheer stroke of luck or work of God, that these troubles are truncated, otherwise the target of all the crisis is a misdirected, bottled anger that would have been another 1967-type Arab/islamist enclave uprising against Israel. It's a brewing trouble; a volcano gearing to go. For now it has no exit hole. That is because of the differences between shia and sunni islam. But despite all of that, it has not taken Hezbollah anything to start shooting at Israel, apparently in sympathy to the Palestinians who have come under intense pressure from Israeli bombardment of targets in Gaza prompted by rocket launch wherein the militants have refused to cease aggression while Israel will not stop wanting to destroy such launch sites from which the aggression originates.

With Hamas threatening the Tel Aviv airport with rocket launch, Israel may be in for a full blown battle with the dare-devil islamist militants. In the face of this, should Israel wait until these militants find a convergence, a congruence, to turn their faces against it? Right now, what the world is seeing and hearing are the casualties inflicted by Israel’s air raids, and it has nothing more than blame for Israel, notwithstanding if some of those explosions are actually Hamas fires just so as to draw more international sympathy to itself and condemnation and more isolation for Israel. Since there must be casualties in war, should Israel continue like this, whipping up more hatred for itself and sympathy for the Palestinians? Time is not stagnant, and moment is moving to yet another stanza of history - only change is constant. The Arabs and their islamist machinery have a common enemy – USA, Europe, or Israel?

My suggestion is that Israel should take no further chances; it pays no dividend. Instead of the hide and seek game seemingly playing out in the enclave. Israel should use the advantage it has now, launch full scale offensive into Gaza and reclaim it. Israel should crush every resistance and take full control of the territory making sure no militant remains in the place to once again excite rebellion or launch rockets at Israel from behind. Those who choose to remain or leave should be permitted. The world will make noise – why not? And since the Arabs will NEVER allow Israel to live in peace, it will be so that when the time comes for them to resume the fight against Israel, Israel will not have leaking base in its defensive and offensive operations. Abbas/PLO will not disarm Hamas, Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah. These two and al qaida are targeted terrorist organizations set up by the islamist world for the destruction of Israel. All Israel needs is to be proactive and strike before they strike it. Time is of the essence. God Bless Israel. Amen.
In Response

by: PapaG32 from: Texas
July 13, 2014 10:00 AM
Well said. I wish I could express myself this way.
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