Israeli Ground Assault Begins in Gaza

Israeli troops will target cross-border tunnels; navy began shelling harbor.

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli air strike, on July 11, 2014 in Rafah, in the southern of Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes kept up deadly raids on Gaza but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border, as the United States offered to help negotiate a truce. 
AFP/Getty Images
Kaveh Waddell
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Kaveh Waddell
July 17, 2014, 12:02 p.m.

Is­raeli forces have launched a ground as­sault in Ga­za, ac­cord­ing to the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment. Forces have been in­struc­ted to tar­get and des­troy cross-bor­der tun­nels used to smuggle weapons and sup­plies to and from Ga­za. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu con­firmed the as­sault in a state­ment.

“The prime min­is­ter and de­fense min­is­ter have in­struc­ted the IDF to be­gin a ground op­er­a­tion to­night in or­der to hit the ter­ror tun­nels from Ga­za in­to Is­rael,” the state­ment read. The ob­ject­ive of the op­er­a­tion is to strike a “sig­ni­fic­ant blow to Hamas’ ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture,” ac­cord­ing to a sep­ar­ate state­ment from the Is­raeli Army.

Journ­al­ists stay­ing in ho­tels on the Ga­za beach were asked to evac­u­ate the area. The Is­raeli navy began shelling the Ga­za har­bor soon there­after. The har­bor is on the side of the Ga­za Strip op­pos­ite the east­ern tun­nels be­ing tar­geted by ground troops.

Earli­er on Thursday, Palestini­an fight­ers used a tun­nel to enter Is­rael. At least one was killed when Is­raeli forces bombed the group.

Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone with Net­an­yahu soon after the ground in­va­sion was an­nounced.

The ground in­va­sion is the most re­cent de­vel­op­ment in a 10-day long con­flict that has killed hun­dreds of Palestini­ans in Ga­za and one Is­raeli. Mil­it­ants in Ga­za have sent bar­rages of rock­ets in­to Is­rael on a daily basis as Is­raeli air strikes tar­geted Ga­za.

Is­rael com­mit­ted to a five-hour pause in air strikes that ended at 3 p.m. loc­al time Thursday. Hos­til­it­ies re­sumed after the end of the cease­fire: Is­raeli air strikes killed at least four Palestini­an chil­dren in Ga­za City as mil­it­ants launched more than 50 rock­ets in­to Is­rael from Ga­za after the cease­fire was up.

A cease­fire pro­pos­al put for­ward by Egypt failed earli­er this week after Is­rael agreed to it. Hamas did not ac­know­ledge the agree­ment and con­tin­ued to fire rock­ets in­to Is­rael. After the fail­ure, ne­go­ti­ations con­tin­ued in Cairo, where Egyp­tian Pres­id­ent Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi met with Pres­id­ent Mah­moud Ab­bas and Is­raeli ne­go­ti­at­ors on Wed­nes­day.

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