By YAAKOV LAPPIN, HERB KEINON
LAST UPDATED: 07/17/2014
After days of waiting and deliberation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday night directed the IDF to send ground troops into Gaza to strike the terror tunnels into Israel.
A statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon directed the IDF to prepare to expand the ground operation.
The statement said that the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected. In addition, the statement said, Hamas even fired rockets during the Thursday’s five-hour humanitarian cease-fire.
“In light of Hamas’ continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” the statement said.
The statement said that Operation Protective Edge, now in its 10th day, will continue until its goals are reached: restoring quiet for an extended period of time,and delivering a significant blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza.
Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.
The ground invasion comes hours after a Hamas assault squad of thirteen highly armed terrorists attempted to carry out a massacre of civilians at Kibbutz Sufa, near the border, before being blocked by the IDF.
Infantry, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, artillery, and intelligence units are taking over various areas in Gaza, and are all working with one another and the air force. They are operating in northern, central, and southern Gaza, where Hamas has dug an extensive terrorist tunnel network.
The IDF’s Southern Command is overseeing the ground offensive.
The units involved have undergone intensive training recently ahead of their missions, Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz, IDF spokesman, said on Thursday night.
“The operation has reached its ground phase,” Almoz said. “Large numbers of forces began a focused effort to destroy tunnels in Gaza.
We are in a new stage,” he stated. At the same time, the air force is continuing with air strikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad around Gaza.
The Ground Forces are currently engaging terrorist infrastructure, and the operation “will be expanded as needed,” Almoz said. “They’re moving now in various areas of Gaza. We will continue to attack in every location we think needs to be struck,” he warned.
The IDF is currently calling up more reserves, Almoz added.
Palestinian sources said strikes occurred up and down the Strip, adding that one strike targeted a motorcycle apparently carrying members of a rocket launching cell on their way to an attack on Israel.