Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that his military must “prepare for the possibility of widening, significantly,” its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after a night and morning of attacks that killed at least 27 Palestinians, “including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman,” Reuters reports. One Israeli soldier, a 20-year-old IDF staff sergeant, has been killed since troops took to the ground following ten days of aerial attacks.
The mission, says Israel’s military, is not toppling Hamas completely, but “combating the terror-tunnel threat” that allows militants to sneak into the country while quieting the largely unsuccessful barrage of rockets from Gaza. “Initial indication suggests that the results thus far fall in line with expectations,” IDF forces said in a statement. Here’s what they’ve done since last night.
Thursday, 10 p.m.
The operation begins, “hours after Israel bombed a rehabilitation hospital and another air strike killed four children playing on a Gaza City rooftop — an echo of the previous day’s bombing that left four young children, all cousins, dead on a beach,” the New York Times reports. Tanks “rolled into the northern Gaza Strip,” while “naval gunboats pounded targets in the south.”
[…] residents of some sparsely populated farmland in northern Gaza were cowering in their homes, afraid to answer mobile phones or peek out windows. […] Moussa al-Ghoul, 63, who lives northwest of Beit Lahiya, said his neighborhood had turned into “a war zone” with tanks surrounding his home, having destroyed those of two of his sons. He said shells were landing “everywhere.”
Most of Gaza, roughly 80 percent, lost power when cables on the coast are damaged.
No one can move at night in Gaza or risk being mistaken for militants and targeted. Spent evening away from windows.— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) July 18, 2014
Dawn Approaches on Friday
“Israeli gunboats lit up the sky with their fire before dawn while helicopters fired into the coastal enclave,” Reuters reports. “Hamas fired mortar rounds at the invading troops and rockets across the border at the southern Israeli towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon.”
Israel says it took over five tunnels, hit 100 coastal targets, and “succeeded in neutralizing some 14 terrorists in several exchanges of fire” in the overnight campaign.
3:21 am in Gaza City. No shelling near us for some time now, tho gunboats still chugging around nearby. Going to sleep a bit.— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) July 18, 2014
Three children, ages 12, 13, and 14, were killed in northern Gaza. At least 260 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 2,000 have been injured. “The United Nations estimates that three-quarters of the Palestinians killed in the operation were not militants and that the victims include more than 50 children,” including “at least 17 minors killed in the past 48 hours.”
Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, said on TV, “I will now, uncharacteristically, ask the residents of Gaza to move away from the areas our forces are operating in — they are operating with extreme force.” A Hamas spokesman on Facebook said Netanyahu “is killing Gaza children but he will pay the price.”
“We decided to launch the action after we tried all the other ways, and with an understanding that without this operation the price we will have to pay later would be much higher,” said the prime minister from Tel Aviv. There is no end in sight.