Israel launches major Gaza operation
JERUSALEM — The Israeli Air Force struck Palestinian tunnels near the Gaza border with Egypt as it continues its retaliatory operation against Hamas, according to Palestinian reports.
It was the first attack in that area of Gaza since the start of a massive Israeli bombing campaign begun early Saturday afternoon. About 40 tunnels were destroyed, according to reports.
Israel’s Cabinet agreed on Sunday to call up more than 6,000 army reservists, as tanks and troops began moving to the Gaza area in advance of a possible ground attack.
The decision came as Defense Minister Ehud Barak allowed humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip from Israel even as Israel continued to fight the terrorist Hamas organization.
The movement of tanks and ground troops on Saturday night followed an Israeli operation begun early Saturday afternoon that has killed more than 270 people in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian reports. The Israeli army said only about 15 of those deaths were civilians.
Rockets launched from Gaza on Sunday, likely long-range, Russian-built Grad missiles, landed as far away as Ashdod for the first time, and also struck in Ashkelon. Residents of Sderot and other communities near Gaza are confined to their homes or bomb shelters.
Also on Sunday, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian protester of the operation in Gaza during a rally in the West Bank village of Na’alin. The army is investigating why the soldiers used live ammunition instead of rubber bullets for crowd control. Weekly protests in Na’alin usually center around the construction of Israel’s security fence.
The wave of air-launched bombs on Gaza Saturday was in retaliation for the recent intensification of rocket-launches from the coastal strip, which is controlled by the Hamas terrorist group. On some days, more than 50 rockets have been aimed at towns and farms in southern Israel.
An Israeli resident of the town of Netivot was killed Saturday in a wave of Hamas bombings. Hamas reported that almost all of its security installations were hit and threatened a new wave of suicide attacks.
Israel dropped at least 100 tons of bombs in the raids. “There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting,” Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, said in a news conference.