Israel Launches Ground Offensive in Gaza

(Washington Post) William Booth, Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash - Israeli forces backed by artillery barrages and airstrikes launched a major ground offensive into Gaza late Thursday. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said their activities along the southern part of the Gaza Strip were carried out in coordination with Egypt. Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel. In Gaza City, from a high floor in an apartment building, reporters watched as the sky was lit as if by lightning strikes. There were sustained barrages of artillery, flares shooting through the night and drones flying overhead. Israeli warships fired from the Mediterranean Sea. During a five-hour "humanitarian truce" on Thursday, a group of men at a mosque in northern Gaza said they had returned to clean up the glass from windows shattered in the previous day's bombardment. But they could be seen moving rockets into the mosque. Khalid al-Batish, a political leader of Islamic Jihad, said the armed factions were prepared to keep fighting until their cease-fire conditions were met. "A truce should include a reward for the Palestinian people," he said. Analysts expect the Israeli ground forces to focus on destroying the tunnels and trying to avoid engaging Hamas fighters. "If all that will stop the shooting from Gaza into Israel, I believe that after a few days they will go back [home]," said Itamar Yaar, a former top official at Israel's National Security Council. But if Hamas attacks Israeli soldiers, the "Israeli cabinet will not have any other choice than to give orders to the armed forces to go deeper."

2014-07-18 00:00:00

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