Saturday, January 3, 2009
IDF enters Gaza
IDF enters Gaza; dozens of terrorists hurt
Ground incrusion underway: Following heavy artillery bombardment, IDF soldiers enter Gaza Saturday evening; Defense Minister Barak: We won't abandon our citizens, IDF's job is to defend home front
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.
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 reportedly entered various areas in northern Gaza and fire exchanges were reported soon after.
IDF ground troops (Photo: Reuters)
"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."
Meanwhile, the IDF has started calling up thousands of reservists in the framework of emergency call-ups approved by the government. The objective of the call-up is to enable the IDF to expand the ground incursion if necessary.
Reservists have started to arrive at their bases Saturday evening and will continue to come in Sunday.
'It won't be easy'
In a statement to the media Saturday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the ground incursion will put Israeli troops in life danger.
"It won't be easy and it won't be brief," he said. 'We're continuing to expand the operation while being well aware that this move will include challenges, difficulties, and also victims. We are doing it because of the faith that at this time this is our duty to citizens of the country."
"Several hours ago, IDF troops entered the Gaza Strip," he said. "So far in the operation, the IDF, the Air Force, and the Intelligence Corps delivered a harsh blow against Hamas.
The defense minister stressed that he debated at length before ordering the ground incursion, adding that Israel was a peace-loving country and pledging that the IDF will have the upper hand by the operation's end.
Troops enter Gaza (Photo: Sky News/AFP)
"The decision to embark on the ground phase of the operation was taken following in depth consideration," he said. "Every alternative was examined thoroughly, while we examined every possible scenario."
"We won't abandon our citizens," Barak said. "The IDF's job is to defend the home front."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Friday night and approved the ground incursion. The operation was approved in principle in the cabinet session 10 days ago.
Earlier in the day, artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip. The IDF said that by Saturday evening hundreds of shells had been fired at precise targets in Gaza. Much of Gaza was enveloped by darkness as night fell.
Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately."
Earlier Saturday, the Air Force attacked a vehicle in Khan Younis carrying Hamas officer Muhammad Maaruf and another group member. The two were reportedly killed in the strike. Saturday morning, a senior Hamas commander was assassinated.
Posted by Spyridon at 1:28 PM