Israel ground offensive to target tunnels

2014-07-18 06:14
An Israeli Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and Merkava tanks. (Menahem Kahana, AFP)

An Israeli Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and Merkava tanks. (Menahem Kahana, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Gaza - Israel launched a Gaza ground campaign after 10 days of bombardments from the air, stepping up an offensive that already has taken a heavy toll in civilian lives.

Israel signalled the invasion would be limited in scope - targeting tunnels dug by gunmen - and said it was not intended to topple Hamas, the Gaza Strip's dominant Islamist group.

Explosions lit up the sky in the early hours of Friday and residents in several areas of the densely populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians said they saw small numbers of Israeli tanks that had crossed the border from Israel.

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office late on Thursday said he had given orders to destroy tunnels that militants use to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks.

An Israeli military spokesperson said Israel was not out to try to topple Hamas.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded with defiance to Israel's invasion announcement, telling Reuters: "We warn Netanyahu of the dreadful consequences of such a foolish act".

Gaza residents and medical officials reported heavy shelling along the eastern border from the southern town of Rafah to the north of the strip.

Residents said heavy clashes took place along the border, including in the northern towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya.

Orange flashes illuminated the eastern Gaza Strip as Israeli gunboats off the Mediterranean coast fired shells and tracer bullets. Israeli artillery pounded the area and helicopters fired across the border, Reuters witnesses said.

Rockets streaked from Gaza towards the southern Israeli towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon. Live television showed interceptions by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, and no casualties were reported.

Israel last mounted a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip during a three-week war in late 2008 and early 2009 that claimed 1 400 Palestinian and 13 Israeli lives.

No time frame was announced for the new operation, and the length and intensity of Israel's assaults could depend on the scale of civilian deaths. Such casualties are likely to boost international pressure for a ceasefire.

Civilian casualties

Gaza health officials said 238 Palestinians, most of them civilians, had been killed since Israel began the air and sea offensive on 8 July in what it called a response to mounting rocket salvoes into its cities. One Israeli civilian has been killed.

The warfare has been the worst between Israel and Palestinians in two years.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking after the announcement of the ground assault, implored Israel to do more to stop Palestinian civilian deaths.

"I regret that despite my repeated urgings, and those of many regional and world leaders together, an already dangerous conflict has now escalated even further," Ban said. "I urge Israel to do far more to stop civilian casualties."

Jordan's UN mission said it has requested an emergency Security Council meeting. Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a meeting would likely be held on Friday afternoon if council members agreed.

The frequent firing of rockets from Gaza has made a dash to shelter a daily routine for hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Launched largely at Israel's south and the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, many of the rockets have been shot down by Iron Dome.

A statement from the Israeli military said the operation would include "infantry, armoured corps, engineer corps, artillery and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support".

It said another 18 000 reserve soldiers would be mobilised to join more than 30 000 already called up.

Hamas wants Israel and Egypt, whose military-backed government is at odds with the Islamist movement, to lift border restrictions that have deepened economic hardship among Gaza's 1.8 million people. Hamas is also suffering from a cash crunch, unable to pay its employees in Gaza for months.

Fighting resumed immediately after the end of a five-hour humanitarian truce on Thursday requested by the United Nations to allow Palestinians to stock up on food.

Before dawn, about a dozen Palestinian fighters tunnelled under the border, emerging near an Israeli community. At least one was killed when Israeli aircraft bombed the group, the military said.

While tunnel-hunting incursions would be far short of a full-scale invasion and reoccupation, there is still the danger for Israel that risky and time-consuming missions could fall to Palestinian ambushes.

Hamas leaders have talked up their "tunnel campaign" against the Israeli enemy. One publicity video showed Palestinian fighters hauling rockets through a narrow passage to load onto a launcher that appears buried in an orchard. It is then fired remotely after its mechanised cover slides open.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit the Middle East from Friday to Sunday to try to defuse the crisis, and will discuss putting a European mission on the Gaza-Israel border, a diplomatic source said on Thursday.

Fabius will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt and Netanyahu in Israel among other leaders, the source said.

Speaking with reporters in Cairo, Abbas demanded Israel stop its offensive and said the ground operation would "lead to more bloodshed and complicate efforts to end the aggression", according to Egyptian State media.

Read more on:    hamas  |  benjamin netanyahu  |  mahmoud abbas  |  palestine  |  israel  |  gaza  |  middle east peace  | 
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
8 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 19:35 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive
    ROADWORKS - traffic restrictions between the R300 and Highlands Drive - expect delays
  • Tuesday Belhar - 17:58 PM
    Road name: Belhar Drive
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Alabama Drive
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R2999.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.