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Israel Begins Ground Operations In Gaza

Gaza Rockets

Despite reports earlier today that left open the hope of a cease fire agreement in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, late today local time Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza in its ongoing effort to wipeout Hamas’s rocket capabilities:

JERUSALEM — Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip on Thursday night, saying it would target tunnels that infiltrate its territory after cease-fire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days.

The military released a statement at 10:39 p.m. saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror.”

Palestinians and journalists in Gaza reported heavy artillery fire from ground troops in the north and Israeli gunboats stationed near Gaza’s port as well as a continuing air assault. The strikes were aimed at a rehabilitation hospital and, earlier killed four young children as they played on a roof. At the same time, scores of rockets from Gaza continued to stream into cities all over central and southern Israel.

Earlier at least four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City Gaza officials said, as hostilities quickly resumed at the end of a five-hour “humanitarian window” both sides had agreed to after nine days of fighting.

Gaza militants sent rockets into southern Israel starting precisely at 3 p.m., the end of the lull, and scores followed into the early evening, most landing in open areas. Israel held its fire for a couple of hours, but then hit hard, striking a house in eastern Gaza City around 6 p.m. and killing three children, according to witnesses and the Health Ministry of Gaza. Five other people in the house were wounded.

The Israeli military said five of the 57 rockets fired from Gaza hit open areas in southern Israel, including in the city of Ashkelon, and another fell short and landed inside Gaza, as sirens again sounded repeatedly. Two others were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system over Tel Aviv. A military spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, confirmed the resumption of Israeli airstrikes at 5 p.m. but did not specify any targets.

The pause, requested by the United Nations, came after Israel foiled a predawn attack when about 13 Palestinian militants emerged from a tunnel near a kibbutz, even as negotiations toward an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal continued. It was interrupted by a brief flurry of mortar shells fired from Gaza that fell in open ground near the Gaza border, but otherwise the quiet held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., allowing Gaza residents to safely come out of their homes to shop and survey the damage the battle had wrought.

Palestinian, Egyptian, Israeli and American officials said intense discussions were underway on terms for a cease-fire that could take effect as soon as 6 a.m. Friday, but none was willing to be quoted by name. A high-level Israeli delegation returned from Cairo, where President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Tony Blair, the envoy of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, met Wednesday with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.

“The effort to achieve an end of the violence is ongoing,” said one senior Israeli official. “We’re not there yet.”

More from The Jerusalem Post:

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 put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon Netanyahu 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.

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 and make their way from less populated areas to the Strip’s major cities.

Obviously, news like this doesn’t bode well for the aforementioned cease fire negotiations. At the very least, it’s unlikely that the early Friday target that these talks were reaching for is realistic at this point given the fact that it’s unlikely that the ground operation is going to be completed by then. In fact, if the goals of the operation are as broad as some of the rhetoric coming from the Israeli government would indicate — which speaks of the eradication of Hamas’s rocket capabilities — then it seems unlikely that this would be a short-term operation. Additionally, Hamas is unlikely to be interested in letting up on its own offensive against Israel while Israel tanks are rolling through Gaza hunting them down. So, we likely ought to be prepared for this to be another long, drawn out fight in Gaza in which Hamas’s rocket capability will be seriously undermined, although probably not completely destroyed. This would buy Israel some period of peace, but likely put us back where we are now in another year or two unless, somehow, Hamas is removed from power and rooted out of Gaza, and outcome that seems to be unfortunately unlikely. The only other option Israel would appear to have would be a total war in Gaza to wipe Hamas out, but the civilian casualties from such a conflict would likely create more international pressure than they are willing to bear.

There is another possibility, of course. This could simply be a relatively small operation on Israel’s part designed to maximize the gains it has made against Hamas in the current conflict before a cease fire takes hold. That is not an uncommon tactic in war, of course, so it would make sense if that’s what’s going on here. For the moment at least, though, there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the military is limiting its objectives in this operation, and Hamas seems to be fighting back as vigorously as they can. Given all that, I’d put the odds of a cease fire at any time in the nearly future as being pretty slim if not non-existent.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tran says:

    Wow, I can hardly believe a serious journalist is writing this. How about this serious option for Israel: Instead of purposely killing children playing soccer on a beach or starting a ground invasion (!) against the world’s biggest outdoor prison, they could accept that 10 years cease fire Hamas had offered.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 12

  2. mantis says:

    I guess they feel they didn’t kill enough children yesterday.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 10

  3. lounsbury says:

    Ah brilliant, because the Lebanese intervention worked just so bloody brilliantly.

    Current Israeli elite are really horrible idiots.

    The commentator that called the Israeli effort, The Stupid War was spot on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @lounsbury:

    I can’t even parse the motives in this.

    Why is Israel bombing Hamas in Gaza for the murder of three Israelis whose death occurred outside of Gaza, when they aren’t even sure that was a Hamas operation? And wouldn’t a dozen air raids pretty much cover the whole “eye for an eye” thing?

    And why is Hamas still firing missiles? Batting practice for Iron Dome?

    I don’t get the end game on either side.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  5. lounsbury says:

    There is a class of Israeli politicians that have it in their heads that “Arabs only understand force” and if they beat them up enough, they’ll crack. Plus a strong dose of ethnic prejudice in certain circules, à la the Savage Indian of American frontier mythology, c. 19th century.

    It also seems to me that Netanyahu et al genuinely believe they can get a permanent upper hand.

    Finally, it serves the Greater Israel crowd by reinforcing Palestinian radicalism, which makes the argument on occupation covering slow annexation easier to sell to you Americans.

    Hamas, besides being ideologues (not in some ways that different than Netanyahu et al in my view), profit from having the Israeli enemy acting particularly brutally and stupidly. It shores themselves up against the Takfiri loons among the militant radicals, distracts from their own governance issues.

    They will come out strengthened, from the Rally Around the Flag effect (that queerly a certain nationalist mindset in any given nation always believes about their own nation but utterly discounts on the other side).

    All in all the short-termist idiot logic on both sides is not hard to discern.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 4

  6. michael reynolds says:

    short-termist idiot logic

    So the end game isn’t so much an end game as a straightforward tit-for-tat slap fight and no one’s exactly playing the game three moves ahead.

    The Israelis massacre Hamas. And the population that elected Hamas is still in place, but with a whole new set of grudges. So, all better!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  7. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Yes, but the good news is that when they massacre civillians, they reall don’t want to and it’s only because Hamas made them and it hurts the Israelis much more than it hurts the Palestinians.

    Just one more thing I learned reading the OTB trolls this week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  8. Rob in CT says:

    There is a real symbiosis here.

    Hardliners (Hamas/righty Likudniks and further-right Israelis) feast off this sh*t. It reinforces them. Simple, really.

    So Hamas is pretty much useless, right? They took power, if you recall, because the Palestinian Authority was useless/corrupt/useless/etc. Hamas was more extreme but supposedly better at bringing home the bacon and whatnot. This has not been working (in part due to Israeli blockades, but whatever, hang with me). So, Hamas cares that Palestinians are dying why? This probably helps them, they figure, so long as things don’t go so badly they get blamed. So long as people are mostly mad at the Israelis, it’s a win for them, domestically. Sad, but true.

    So, Israel. What’s the endgame? Hard to say, given demographics. I don’t see how they “win” this whole thing, but it’s clear that the Israeli government thinks they can win (not just make a decent peace deal, but WIN).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  9. anjin-san says:

    I’m dedicating this to Jenos. He can eat popcorn and make boom boom noises while he watches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  10. Stonetools says:

    “We will be greeted as liberators.”
    “This invasion will be a cakewalk.”
    “We know where the rockets are. They will be in the vicinity of Gaza City somewhat”.
    “We had to carry out this invasion. We could do nothing else”.
    “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Hamas was really behind the initial killings. We will find the proof when we get to Gaza City”

    It is easy to come up with the lines the Israeli Government is going to say. We’ve seen this movie already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 5

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    late today local time Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza in its ongoing effort to wipeout Hamas’s rocket capabilities:

    Ohhh the naivete! Doug? Do you really think that is what this is about? Really?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM…lets kill some innocent kids.
    But remember…Israel wants peace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  13. C. Clavin says:

    And the Senate endorses killing innocent children as well…

    Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) authored S.Res. 498, which reaffirms Senate support for Israel, condemns unprovoked rocket fire and calls on Hamas to stop all rocket attacks on Israel. “The United States Senate is in Israel’s camp,” Graham said on the Senate floor Thursday.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  14. Tillman says:

    Whew, the downvotes are strong in this thread.

    Also going to second anjin’s clip. Now there’s an Israeli government spokesman unable to defend his own country’s actions.

    @C. Clavin: Both sides do it! *high-fives a million angels*

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  15. C. Clavin says:

    @Tillman:
    Damn…I’ve been meaning to do a “BOTH SIDES” sides comment but hadn’t gotten to it.

    The truth is that BOTH SIDES in this conflict have acted poorly. Neither has clean hands.
    My biggest issues are that:
    a) Israel’s military superiority, and the fact that they are using it to kill people — including innocent civilians, at a rate of 23:1, is immoral.
    b) Israel’s actions are counter to US interests. Sure…Hamas is acting counter to our interests…but they aren’t our “GREATEST ALLY EVER”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  16. JKB says:

    The ground invasion is as advertised. It is to locate and destroy the tunnels into Israel. This is a weak point because, unlike the rockets, there is no technological solution. Gaza has a serious subterranean infrastructure, they built it using the humanitarian cement that Israel let through the blockade.

    Now, hopefully, less conventional Israeli forces will use the ground operations to resolve some of the Hamas who stay away from the tunnels and rockets. Teach them to fear the pitter-patter of Israeli combat boots. But once the tunnels are dealt with, a ceasefire will be far more likely.

    Think about what might have had to be authorized if those 13 heavily armed murdering terrorists had not been stopped near their tunnel and instead had been able to purposely and with willful intent massacre the 150 men, women and children in the nearby kibbutz?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  17. Andre Kenji says:

    Hamas wants a large scale ground invasion, so, they can kill some Israeli Soldiers. Asymmetrical warfare at it´s worst.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  18. Lounsbury says:

    Humanitarian cement…. amusing euphemism.

    The Beat the SandNig Wogs into submission approach Israeli leadership believes in is not going to work – it hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work now. that is pure fantasy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  19. Tillman says:

    @JKB:

    The ground invasion is as advertised.

    Let me stop you there. Nothing in war is ever as advertised. Nothing. Even when you’re a soldier and your commander tells you the plan, the plan won’t go off as advertised.

    So, with that quarry of salt in mind, it’s not worth paying heed to officials too closely. Their job is to massage the message.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Tillman

    Yea, but now JKB can use cool combat lingo like “resolve some of the Hamas.” It really makes the whole thing worthwhile.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  21. grumpy realist says:

    It’s stuff like this that make me want to give everyone one month to vamoose, then just drop an asteroid or two on the area.

    They can fight over land 100 feet underwater.

    (Of course, if we have enough global warning, we may not need the asteroid that much…)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. bill says:

    gee, and things in gaza were going so great, all that trade and industry that helps keep them off welfare and such.
    maybe if they were to call ahead and let the Israeli’s know they were going to launch some lame rockets at some neighborhood…..right. good thing they’re such an inferior and disorganized bunch.
    sometimes i forget what kind of “militants” hide behind kids/churches, then i remember who we’re talking about- the same types who blow up anyone nearby to make a “point”. or launch 1,000+ rockets that kill 1 person…….and then whine that they’re being attacked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  23. Grewgills says:

    On the both sides do it front there is this

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Eric Florack says:

    So, the “Palastinians” are hiding rockert launchers in schools, and launching Rockets against Israel… and of course what lasses for smart leftists blame Israel when the school kids getting used as human sheilds get killed, inidental to Israel’s response?

    Yeah, THAT makes a lotta sense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ Florack

    Yes, those kids on the beach were shielding a rocket launcher. You can see it clearly in the pictures.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: I know, you’re not an idiot, you just play one here. Right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4