Casualties Mount as Israel Presses Ground Campaign in Gaza
by Gabe Joselow July 18, 2014
Israel says it has killed at least 17 militants in combat since beginning ground operations in Gaza against the Palestinian group Hamas. Palestinian civilians continue to bear the brunt of the escalating conflict.
The Israeli military says its forces engaged Palestinian militants during overnight operations aimed at destroying tunnels that Israel says are being dug by Hamas into Israel. The military says another 13 militants were arrested.
Ground forces entered into the Palestinian territory late Thursday after militants tried to infiltrate Israeli territory underground.
The ground incursion has escalated a conflict that began last week when Israel began air strikes in Gaza targeting Hamas positions. Palestinian militants have continued to launch a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.
'In the last 11 days we've struck about 2,100 targets and there have been over 1,500 rockets launched from Gaza. So this is the playing ground, this is [what] we are in the midst of, and this is the challenge we are facing today,' said Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner.
Officials in Gaza say 260 Palestinians have died in the conflict, most of them civilians. On the Israeli side, one civilian and one soldier have been killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Friday that the military has been instructed to prepare for a possible widening of the ground operations.
Israel has mobilized an additional 18,000 reservists adding to nearly 40,000 already called up.
Thousands of Palestinians have sought shelter at United Nations schools in Gaza to escape the fighting. Many left their homes after being alerted by Israeli leaflets and phone calls of the impending operations.
Taher Assar lives in the Nuseirat camp in central Gaza with his wife and five children. He says they spent a fearful night without power as the sounds of F-16s, tanks and rockets roared all around them.
'This war is not going to lead to anything it's just like the last one and the one before and every time it does not lead to anything, it leads to another war after. So I hope things will be sorted out and find a political solution for the issue because a military solution is not going to solve the problem,' said Assar.
Diplomatic efforts to forge a comprehensive cease-fire deal between the warring parties are ongoing. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has traveled to Turkey to try to get Istanbul to exert its perceived influence over Hamas.
An Egyptian-brokered deal agreed to by Israel earlier this week fell through after Hamas said its representatives were left out of the consultations. Hamas has called for the lifting of an Israeli blockade on Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners as part of any long-term truce.
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