IDF starts Gaza ground invasion
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
LAST UPDATED: 07/17/2014 22:46
Netanyahu's office says purpose of mission is to destroy terror tunnels and seriously harm the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza.
An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards Gaza from outside the northern Gaza Strip Photo: REUTERS
IDF ground forces began to move into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the prime minister's office confirmed.
The purpose of the operation was to destroy the Gazan terror tunnels leading to Israel, according to a statement released by the prime minister's office.
"Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations' infrastructure in the Gaza Strip," the statement read.
Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.
The IDF said that the operation will involve infantry, engineering corps, and tank units combined with air force and naval support and intelligence.
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
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.
Close to 100,000 leaflets containing the message were dropped over the territory and hundreds of thousands of citizens from all over Gaza received recorded phone messages warning them to vacate villages.
Air raid sirens sounded throughout southern and central areas during the day. Ashkelon and Ashdod were targeted by Hamas repeatedly in the evening, and were successfully defended by Iron Dome.
Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over central Israel and the Sharon district in the evening, and one over the city of Ashdod. Several rockets landed in open areas.
The Gaza-border region of Eshkol came under continuous rocket barrages. Some ten rockets in open areas, and one damaged a home.
Between 3 pm and 5:30 pm, Hamas fired 40 rockets at Israel, and Iron Dome shot three down Two rockets were fired at Beersheba, with one falling in an open area and a second intercepted over the Negev city.
Within a minute of the ceasefire ending, rockets were fired from Gaza at the Ashkelon industrial area and Hof Ashkelon region. Most fell in open areas.
The humanitarian ceasefire was violated when Hamas fired 3 projectiles at the Eshkol region. The rockets exploded in open areas.
On Thursday morning, one rocket was intercepted over the greater Tel Aviv and Sharon district, and one rocket fell in an open area. In Beersheba, Iron Dome intercepted an incoming Gazan rocket.