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Israel launches overnight ground raid in Gaza

By Tajuddin
Jul 13th, 2014

Despite rumors of nascent contacts about a cease-fire, Israel on Sunday further escalated its military strikes on the Gaza Strip and confirmed that ground troops were deployed in a lightning raid overnight.

Israel’s military warned residents of Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, to evacuate the area and move south of Jebaliya in advance of a planned strike. Civilians failing to comply would be putting their lives at risk, dropped leaflets cautioned.
After the deadline passed, the Israeli military unleashed a wave of attacks on what officials said were the homes of senior Palestinian militants in the area. The bombardment was carried out mostly by air, but the Israeli navy also reportedly fired shells from the sea.

Prior to the warning to vacate the area, Palestinian families began evacuating to a nearby school for Palestinian refugees run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Four-thousand displaced civilians have already taken refuge in the U.N. agency’s facilities in Gaza, according to a tweet from spokesman Chris Guinness, who urged all sides to respect U.N. installations and civilians.

The warnings followed what Gaza medical officials said was the deadliest night yet in which dozens of Palestinians were killed, pushing the campaign’s death toll past 160 with more than 1,000 people injured.

A U.N. humanitarian affairs office in the Palestinian enclave stated that 70% of the Palestinian fatalities since Monday have been civilians, of whom 30% were children.

The casualties include 17 members of the Batsh family, who were killed while praying at a mosque next door to a targeted building owned by Gaza Police Chief Tayseer Batsh, who was reported to be critically injured.

There have been no Israeli deaths during the fighting so far. But a teenager became the second person to be severely wounded when two rockets landed Sunday in the Mediterranean coastal city of Ashkelon.

Neither side in the conflict appeared willing to heed a unanimous statement from the United Nations Security Council on Saturday calling for the fighting to stop.

Top Western diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry, were expected Sunday to discuss the ongoing violence in Gaza and Israel on the sidelines of a meeting in Vienna on nuclear talks with Iran.

The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is reportedly heading to Israel on Monday to try to mediate an end to the fighting, but Israeli officials have given no indication of any desire to stop the air campaign.

“Israel has no intention of wrangling over bits of dictates and wishful thinking of self-appointed mediators,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister, told Israeli television. “We are focused on our goal and continue pounding Hamas. And this is just the beginning.”

On Sunday, the Israeli army confirmed an overnight raid by naval commandos, sent under cover of aerial and naval forces to target a site believed to be the source of massive volleys of rockets fired at cities in southern and central Israel.

Three Palestinian militants who were reportedly guarding the site were killed and four commandos injured in a gun battle.

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