Israel initiates ground maneuver in Gaza Strip

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Following ten days of conflict between Israel and Hamas, and two attempts at a ceasefire, on Thursday Israel sent armored and infantry forces into the Gaza Strip.

This was another escalation in the conflict that began after the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers and an Arab teenager from the West Bank.

Map of the West Bank.
Image: CIA Factbook.

Israel called an extra 18,000 reserve soldiers on top of 50,000 others who had been called up during the last few days. The Israeli military wrote on Twitter: "We have hit Hamas hard, and we will continue to hit Hamas hard". In remarks to CNN, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum remarked on the Israeli ground movement, "the beginning of the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is a dangerous step with unknown consequences. Israel will pay a heavy price for it".

Thursday, before the ground maneuver, a temporary ceasefire took place for about five hours. During the ceasefire, banks that had been closed since the beginning of the escalation opened, the Red Cross helped repair water pipes and electric power lines, the citizens of the Gaza Strip came out to the streets, and trucks filled with basic products entered through Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza Strip.

It has been five years since the Israeli military last entered Gaza, and more than a year and a half since the last serious conflict between the two sides.

The office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated the current objective of the operation is to target the tunnels that had been dug into Israeli territory, through which to transfer armed personnel and weapons with intent to attack Israeli citizens and soldiers.

Since the beginning of the ground maneuver, Israel has found at least ten tunnels leading to Israel, killed seventeen Palestinian armed militants, and captured another 21. At least one Israeli solider had been killed, as well as one Israeli civilian. Netanyahu said he has ordered military planning for a possible "considerable expansion of the ground operation". Hamas officially threatened they will "drown the occupation army in Gaza mud".