Israel launched a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip to destroy tunnels it says are used for terrorist activities.
“A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip,” the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman’s office said late Thursday on its Twitter feed. “A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun.”
The operation is limited for now to tanks targeting ten tunnels in Gaza, the IDF said.
A statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office said that the security cabinet approved the operation after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Tuesday, which Hamas rejected.
In addition, the statement said, Hamas even fired rockets during Thursday’s five-hour humanitarian cease-fire.
Also on Thursday, Israeli troops stopped an attempted Hamas infiltration from the Gaza Strip, forcing 13 infiltrators back into tunnels.
“In light of Hamas’ continuous criminal aggression, and the dangerous infiltration into Israeli territory, Israel is obligated to act in defense of its citizens,” the statement said.
Israel launched Protective Edge in response to increased rocket fire on the country from Gaza. The Obama administration, which during the conflict has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, has said it would oppose a ground incursion.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged people to “Pray for the soldiers.”
With reporting from Herb Keinon.