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Israeli military calls up reserve troops, hinting toward large military escalation in Gaza

July 08, 2014
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Operation Protective Edge]

Israeli tanks during an excercice in the Jordan Valley. Photo (archive) by Lazar Simeonov.

The Israeli Air Force hit Gaza with more than 50 strikes early Tuesday morning after Palestinian militants fired a barrage of rockets over the border, dubbing the military offensive “Operation Protective Edge.” The Israeli military called up more than 1500 reserve troops late Monday evening, indicating that it has plans for a larger military operation in the coastal enclave. 

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired more than 85 rockets towards Israel Monday evening. Hamas has openly claimed responsibility for some of the launches for the first time since the current escalation began. Medics in Gaza report that 17 people, including women and children, were among those injured during last night’s bombing campaign. Today Israeli forces targetted Beit Lahia, an area in central Gaza, injuring 12 more people late this morning. There have been five homes destroyed in the last two days, according to a local source.

The last two nights of attacks on Gaza make up the bloodiest since Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, in which 180 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman Monday called for increased aggression, on par with Operation Defensive Shield, carried out in 2002, saying, "There is a connection between the murder of the youths and the increasing rocket attacks on the South. 

Tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip have risen drastically since the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. Israeli authorities have placed blame for killings squarely in the hands of Hamas, despite the fact that the Islamist movement has not claimed responsibility. Since the teens’ disappearance in mid-June, Israel has made clear its intentions of dismantling any and all Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank as well as taking out the group’s military capabilities in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas Politician Moshir Al-Masry expects Monday night's attacks to be avenged, writing on his Facebook page the nine deaths will be "the fuel of the intifada and the resistance."

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’lon reiterated Leiberman’s sentiments early Tuesday morning. “We’re heading toward a campaign against Hamas, which will not be over after a few days,” he said during a discussion with high-ranking officials in the Israeli defense establishment. 

Nine Palestinians were killed and five injured by Israeli attacks on Gaza Sunday night. The strikes were a response to rocket fire from Southern and Northern Gaza on Sunday, according to the Israeli military. No Israeli citizens were injured in these attacks, one Israeli soldier has sustained injuries.

Six Palestinian men were killed in a collapsed tunnel in Rafa Monday night. While the Israeli military claims the incident was likely a work accident in the Hanas-controlled tunnel,others presume the tunnel was rigged with explosives by Israeli forces or targetted in Israeli air strikes on that area in the same day. Ibrahim Balawi, 24, Abdul-Rahman al-Zamili, 22, Mustafa Abu Mur, 22, Khalid Abu Mur, 22, Sharaf Ghanam, 22, and Juma Abu Shalouf, 24 are all reported to be among Hamas members deceased in this strike. Two men were killed in an air strike on Al-Burj refugee camp, Mazen al-Jarba, 33, and Mahmoud Saleem, 23, who Hamas has claimed were both part of the al-Qassem Brigades, Hamas' military branch. Five civilians were injured in a strike on Beit Hanoun.

"They're waiting for the war," said local source Muhammad Rajab of Gaza in an interview with Palestine Monitor. "And on another side they do their normal life, they go out, they drink coffee, it's Ramadan. ...But they're sure there is a war coming for Gaza."

There is always steady exchange of rocket fire between Gaza and Southern Israel, resulting in far more Palestinian than Israeli fatalities and casualties. Approximately 15 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air raids since the escalation in bombing began around the time of the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens in the West Bank in mid-June.

Gaza suffers nightly air strikes, though mostly in unpopulated areas. Since Israel's last large-scale attack on Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, approximately 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza, half of which have occurred in the last three weeks.  

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