BREAKING: Israel commences ground operations in Gaza
Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:55:00 GMT —
Israel has launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas' weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory's border with Israel.
The Israeli military describes the operation as open-ended, saying the objective is to strike a "significant blow to Hamas' terror infrastructure."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says he instructed the army to go ahead after Hamas rejected an Egyptian cease-fire plan earlier in the week and after Israeli forces stopped Hamas militants as they tried to infiltrate into Israel through a tunnel from Gaza earlier today. The statement says Israel "is obliged to protect its citizens" from what it describes as "relentless aggression by Hamas."
Hamas officials had no immediate comment.
It's the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.
The operation followed a brief truce earlier today in which Israel held fire to allow Gazans to stock up on food and other necessities after being largely holed up at home since the conflict began last month.
The Israeli military says Israel's Cabinet has authorized the call-up of an additional 18,000 reserve soldiers.
The decision came after Israeli forces invaded the Gaza Strip late Thursday, escalating a 10-day military campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers had been on standby on the Gaza border in recent days, waiting for the order to go in.
Palestinian officials say an Israeli airstrike targeting people outside a mosque has shattered windows in a nearby care center for the disabled and elderly.
The director of the Wafa Rehabilitation Center, Basman Ashi, says four staff members were hurt and power went off in the building after Thursday's attack.
The center in the Gaza Strip has 17 patients, some on respirators or unable to walk.
The Israeli military has repeatedly warned Ashi to evacuate his patients ahead of impending strikes, saying the area near the Israeli border is being used by Hamas to launch rockets.
Ashi has refused, saying he can't move the patients safely. Foreign volunteers have stayed with the patients to try to deter the strikes.