JERUSALEM, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is ready to expand the ground operation in the Gaza Strip if needed.
Netanyahu, who gave a statement to the press prior to a special cabinet meeting at the Tel Aviv military headquarters, said the ground operation Israel embarked on Thursday night came after Israel exhausted other options.
"The defense minister and I instructed the IDF to prepare for a significant expansion of the ground operation. The Chief of Staff and the IDF are prepared accordingly," Netanyahu said on Friday.
Netanyahu said Israel embarked on the ground operation "after having exhausted all other possibilities." He also said that Hamas "left Israel no choice" but to invade the Gaza Strip enclave, and stated the mission for this phase of the operation is to destroy terrorist tunnels.
On Thursday evening, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya' alon instructed the military to embark on a ground operation in the Gaza Strip to hit the terror tunnels in the area. The security cabinet also approved the draft of 18,000 reserve soldiers late Thursday, putting the total number of Israel reserve soldiers at 66,000.
Military sources told the Times of Israel website on Friday that the ground offensive is currently limited two kilometers from the Gaza Strip border.
According to Palestinian health officials, more than 20 Palestinians died overnight and the death toll in Gaza crossed the 260 line. Nearly 2,000 people have been wounded since Operation Protective Edge started, and thousands more are expected to flee their homes in the strip, according to a spokesperson of UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees.
An Israeli soldier became the first military casualty on Thursday night after being hit by light fire, apparently from friendly fire of fellow IDF soldiers. Three other soldiers suffered light to mediocre wounds.
The Palestinians reported heavy artillery was fired by the IDF across the Gaza Strip border and there were some fire exchanges between the IDF and Hamas militants. Moreover, the Israeli Air Force carried on its attacks on the Gaza Strip and struck more than 100 targets overnight.
On Friday morning, sirens were heard throughout the southern Israeli communities, including Ashdod, Be'er Sheva, Dimona and Ashkelon. No injuries or damages were reported. Since the incursion began late Thursday about 20 rockets were launched at Israel.
An Israeli civilian was killed on Tuesday from mortar fire near the Gaza Strip border and five others suffered light to mediocre wounds in rocket attacks.
JERUSALEM, July 18 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli soldier was killed and two others were lightly wounded overnight in the Israeli military's ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Ha'aretz daily reported on Friday.Full story
GAZA, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Six more Palestinians, including three children, were killed on early Friday, hours after Israel announced it had started a ground operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, medical sources said.Full story