Israel has launched a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip. According to YNet:
IDF Enters Gaza; Dozens of Terrorists Hurt
IDF invades Gaza: IDF ground troops entered the northern Gaza Strip Saturday evening, as the army launched its long anticipated ground operation.
Army officials confirmed that at least 30 terrorists were hurt in clashes with IDF ground troops. In several cases, armed terrorists approached Israeli forces and were shot at by ground troops and IDF gunships. There are no reports of Israeli casualties at this time.
The Jerusalem Post gives a somewhat different account, reporting that at least twenty terrorists were killed:
IDF Confirms at Least 20 Gunmen Killed in Ground Offensive
For the first time since the start of Operation Cast Lead, IDF ground troops entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, exchanging fire with Hamas gunmen.
The army confirmed that between 20 to 30 Hamas terrorists were killed during clashes with infantrymen.
The Navy was imposing a blockade on the water near Gaza to prevent Hamas from receiving assistance through Gaza’s coastline.
The military also bombed a gas storage facility in the northern part of the Strip, and TV channels showed footage of flames lighting the pitch-dark Gaza sky for a lengthy period of time.
The IDF said that a large amount of troops from the Armored Corps, Engineering Corps and Infantry Corps entered the territory with the purpose of destroying Hamas infrastructure and preventing rocket fire by taking control of launching pads “in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians.”
The IDF warned that terrorists using civilians as human shields would bear full responsibility for their fate. The IDF spokesperson emphasized that “anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist,” adding that “the residents of Gaza are not the target of the operation.”
The ground offensive is likely to increase casualties on both sides, with Israel running the risk of finding itself in a quagmire with no easy exit strategy and facing increased international pressure to call a cease-fire.
The operation just started a few hours ago, and already it’s a “quagmire” with no “exit strategy”. Did Bloomberg reassign its Baghdad reporters to Gaza when the Surge became too successful to remain newsworthy?
Also, the last I heard, there have been no IDF casualties so far, so any Israeli casualties at all would constitute an increase.
The authors of the Bloomberg article are Gwen Ackerman and Saud Abu Ramadan; draw your own conclusions.
More from YNet:
Saturday night, the Palestinians reported that the IDF attacked a fuel depot in Beit Lahiya. Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a 30-kilometer (roughly 20 miles) naval blockade on Gaza. The move was approved by Defense Minister Barak and was meant to prevent foreign vessels from reaching the combat zone.
Earlier in the evening, large infantry, engineering and intelligence forces entered the Strip, accompanied by armored corps and artillery units. Navy vessels and Air Force gunships also played a role in the operation. The troops entered various areas in northern Gaza and fire exchanges were reported soon after.
“The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations,” said Major Avital Leibovitch, a military spokeswoman, confirming that incursions were under way. “We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas.”
And from the Jerusalem Post article:
Warplanes, gunboats and artillery units blasted more than 40 Hamas targets throughout Saturday, including Hamas’s central intelligence headquarters in Sha’ati, weapons storage facilities, training centers and Hamas leaders’ homes.
Air strikes that had waned during the day gathered pace after dark. One raid hit a mosque in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, killing 14 people and wounding 33, seven critically, according to a Palestinian health official.
Other Palestinian reports claimed that the mosque was hit by an artillery shell.
The IAF also hit the home of senior Hamas commander Abu Zacharia Al-Jamal. A Hamas spokesman announced that al-Jamal was killed in the attack, which would make him the third senior operative in the group to be targeted in the past three days.
At some point the United States will turn the screws and force the Israelis into yet another one-sided ceasefire. But it will be interesting to see how much of Hamas’ leadership can be destroyed before that happens.
Our Israeli correspondent Abu Elvis adds his observations:
A few interesting points:
1) They claimed that they have no gas. When the operation started, nearly three hours ago, someone ignited a gas depot in Beit Hanoun (it could be IDF, it could be Hamas, to kill IDF soldiers, or cover their retreat). It is still burning; it is a huge fire. 2) Arabs are whining about proportionality. According to IDF statisticsHamas fired some 7,200 rockets at Israel since 2005. According to the Sderot media center, they fired 10,046 rockets since 2002 (the IDF spokesman lists data from 2005 till today). To be proportionate, we still owe them thousands of rockets. I agree, we should, at least, be proportionate.
And he has a recommendation for readers who support the IDF in its operations against Hamas:
Hat tips: KGS, Abu Elvis.