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July 17, 2014 3:00 pm

OPERATION ‘PROTECTIVE EDGE’ DAY 10: Gaza Ground Invasion Begins Amid Major Air Force Bombardment (LIVE UPDATES)

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Israel police closing roads east of the Gaza Strip, Thursday afternoon. Photo: Israel Police

Israel police closing roads east of the Gaza Strip, Thursday afternoon. Photo: Israel Police

Follow here for The Algemeiner‘s continued live updates on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Our report on the launch of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge can be found hereFor details on the rocket attacks that led to Israel’s operation click here. To read The Algemeiner‘s live updates from previous days of the conflict click here. For more information please check our homepage.

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WRAP: The Algemeiner has concluded our live updates for tonight and will continue to report on all developments. Please stay tuned for a new live update blog tomorrow.

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9:57 pm – The State Department published a readout of Secretary Kerry’s conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier today:

This afternoon the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who described the terrorist attack this morning near Kibbutz Sufa, and the imminent threat to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip.

The Prime Minister explained his decision to launch an operation to target the threat of further terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel. The Secretary reaffirmed our strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats emanating from tunnels into Israel and expressed our view that this should be a precise operation to target tunnels, as described in a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces.

The Secretary emphasized the need to avoid further escalation and to restore the 2012 cease-fire as soon as possible, reinforced our continuing commitment to the Egyptian initiative as the way to do so, and underscored the importance of Hamas accepting this plan as soon as possible.

The Secretary also reiterated our concern about the safety and security of civilians on both sides and the importance of doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

8:00 pm – The IDF said an anti-tank missile hit an IDF heavy bulldozer in the southern Gaza Strip earlier today, causing damage. No injuries were reported.

6:54 pm – The IDF published the video below of Israeli troops preparing for the Gaza ground operation:

6:40 pm – The IDF published the below video explaining its Gaza ground offensive:

6:22 pm – Israel radio reports Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri as saying: “Hamas was in cahoots with Qatar and Turkey to harm the status of Egypt”. If Hamas had accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire it would have saved the lives of at least 40 Gazans killed by IDF fire.

6:01 pm – Iron Dome downs at least two rockets fired at Beersheba and Ofakim, east of Gaza, according to Army radio.

5:25 pm – Israeli Cabinet member Gilad Erdan to Israel’s Channel 2: “The Operation can go as far as retaking the entire Strip, but that isn’t the goal.”

5:22 pm – The IDF published this picture of an Israeli soldier preparing to enter Gaza:

An Israeli soldier preparing to enter Gaza.

5:17 pm – Israeli Economy Minister Bennett posted this photo on Facebook of soldiers preparing:

Israeli soldiers prepare for battle. Photo: Naftali Bennett.

5:15 pm – Popular Israeli TV presenter: “I don’t envy the Gazans. They supported a terrorist rule… maybe they’re having second thoughts.”

5:12 pm – IDF spokesman: “We hit thousands of targets.”

5:11 pm – The IDF published this video (Hebrew) of IDF chief Gantz giving the order to begin the ground invasion:

5:10 pm – Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Twitter: “I did not make this decision lightheartedly (to enter Gaza with ground forces), but with certainty. I share my concern, love and trust in the strength of the IDF forces.”

5:08 pm – Netanyahu on Twitter: “Operation Protective Edge will continue until it reaches its goal – restoring quiet to Israel’s citizens for a prolonged period, while inflicting a significant blow to the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.”

5:07 pm – Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett: “We had no choice, the tunnel (attack) this morning was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

5:05 pm – Both Israel’s Security Cabinet and the government in full will meet tomorrow.

5:04 pm – IDF: “Our infantry, tanks, artillery, engineers & field intelligence are entering Gaza supported by the Air Force, Navy & other security agencies.”

5:03 pm – Commentators on Israel’s Channel 2 are speculating that many Hamas fighters have been caught in the tunnels underground by the rapid IDF offence.

5:01 pm – Israeli media is reporting that the IDF will request cabinet approval to recruit 18,000 more reserves in case the Gaza ground operation is expanded.

4:49 pm – IDF Spokesman Moti Almoz  says IDF forces are taking their planned objectives in Gaza. “We used the time given to us for training and operative planning,” Almoz says.

4:47 pm – Sources in Israel’s Defense Ministry say the Army seeks to create an overwhelming advantage over Hamas to demoralize its fighting forces.

4:39 pm –  Israel’s Channel 2 reports heavy damage to the building of Gaza’s Wafa hospital from secondary explosions of rockets stored there. Wafa is known to host a Hamas command center.

4:37 pm – The Israel Navy is striking the Gaza port. Palestinians report exchanges of fire and burning buildings on the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.

4:35 pm – IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says the immediate goal of the IDF is to get ground forces into positions from which they will be able to target the entire Gaza Strip.

4:30 pm – Unconfirmed reports have emerged that Gaza’s cellphone system is down.

4:28 pm – Palestinian Authority President Abbas says Israel’s actions will complicate matters and delay a ceasefire. Abbas is on his way to visit Turkey and Qatar.

4:26 pm – Hamas Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum: “The IDF’s entry into Gaza is a dangerous move, and Israel will be held responsible and will pay dearly. Hamas is ready for a fight with the (invading) forces.”

4:21 pm – Here is the full statement issued to reporters from Israel’s prime minister and defense minister:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, this evening (Thursday, 17 July 2014), instructed the IDF to commence ground action to strike at the terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Hamas terrorists used such a tunnel to infiltrate into Israel this morning in order to perpetrate a large-scale attack against Israeli citizens. The IDF successfully thwarted this terrorist action.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yaalon also instructed the IDF to be prepared for an expansion of the ground action. The directive for ground action was approved by the Security Cabinet after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, whereas Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities.

Hamas also did not honor the humanitarian ceasefire initiated by the UN and continued firing at Israeli cities during the lull. In light of Hamas’ criminal and relentless aggression, as well as the dangerous attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory, Israel must act to defend its citizens.

Operation Protective Edge will continue until it reaches its goal – restoring quiet to Israel’s citizens for a prolonged period, while inflicting a significant blow to the infrastructures of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.

4:20 pm – IDF: “We know that Hamas terrorists are operating underground, and that’s where we will meet them.”

4:14 pm – The IDF has confirmed that more reservists will be called up for action in Gaza.

4:12 pm – Tanks are destroying terrorist targets in the north and east of the strip, according to the IDF.

4:11 pm – According to social media reports Journalists were given 10 minutes to evacuate from beachfront hotels in Gaza after a warning was given by the Israeli Navy.

4:10 pm – The IDF released the following statement to reporters:

Following ten days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip.

The IDF’s objective as defined by the Israeli government is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continues indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.

This stage of operation “Protective Edge”, led by the IDF’s Southern Command, will include close coordination between IDF units including infantry, armored corps, engineer corps, artillery, and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support. This effort will also be supported by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and other intelligence organizations.

In the face of Hamas’ tactics to leverage civilian casualties in pursuit of its terrorist goals, the IDF will continue in its unprecedented efforts to limit civilian harm.

The IDF will operate resolutely to defend the State of Israel conducting itself with professionalism, a strict moral code of conduct and a deep respect for the sanctity of human life.

4:09 pm – Israeli Minister Bennett: “IDF soldiers: The entire nation of Israel is with you. Have courage. Return safely.”

4:07 pm – The entire Gaza City horizon looks as if it is on fire from the illumination shells used to light the way for forces.

4:06 pm – There is now a ground invasion in the south of the Strip as well and there is a movement of IDF forces toward the center of the Strip to cut it in two.

4:02 pm – Orders will go out shortly for the call up of another 8000 troops, sources tell The Algemeiner.

4:01 pm – Commentators on Israeli TV are discussing how well Netanyahu and Egypt’s El-Sisi are coordinated and how Kerry seems isolated from the action.

4:00 pm – Egypt’s Foreign Minister declared that Egypt will in no way allow Hamas any control over the Rafah border crossing.

3:58 pm – IDF: “Our goal is to target Hamas’ tunnels that enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks. This requires precise operations.”

3:57 pm – An Israeli diplomatic source told The Algemeiner that the unstated goal of the operation will be to take all the open spaces near the Gaza border.

3:49 pm – Israel’s Channel 2 News: “Egypt announces that Hamas is responsible for this conflict.”

3:45 pm – From the IDF: “A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun.”

“The new phase follows 10 days of Hamas attacks on Israel by land, air & sea – and repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation.”

3:42 pm – Israeli sources tell The Algemeiner that a limited number of Israeli special forces have entered Gaza in the first foray with the likelihood of more troops to follow.

3: 37 pm – Israel’s prime minister and minister of defense have instructed the military to launch ground operations to destroy terror tunnels like the one used this morning. The ground operation has begun.

3:33 pm – Al Jazeera is reporting that an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza has begun.

3:16 pm – The IDF said it dropped leaflets in 14 areas in Gaza explaining where civilians should move for their safety.

3:13 pm – Israel’s Yediot Ahronot quotes an IDF soldier on the Gaza border: “Explosions and artillery have turned the sky red.”

3:07 pm – Jerusalem Post reported Ben Hartman posted this exceptional picture by Shai Ben-Hamo of rocket filled skies over Sderot:

Rockets over Sderot. Photo: Shai Ben-Hamo.

3:05 pm – Rocket barrages were fired over the Israeli locales of Ashdod, Ashkelon, the central Gush Dan region, including Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Holon, Bnei Brak, Kiryat Gat, Rehovot, and elsewhere in the country’s coastal area

2:56 pm – A 40-year-old man in Ashkelon was struck and killed by a passing vehicle Thursday evening, as he ran for shelter during a heavy rocket salvo from Gaza, local EMS services reported.

2:23 pm – The IDF has engaged in a massive artillery bombardment across much of Gaza for the last two hours, according to Israeli media and Palestinian sources within Gaza.

1:36 pm – “A Patriot ground-to-air missile was used to take down the intruder, over an open area in the Ashkelon area,” the IDF said in a tweet about the recent attempted drone infiltration.

1:29 pm – Israeli aircraft shot down a Hamas drone flying out over the Mediterranean Sea a short time ago, the IDF said. This would be the third such attempt at using a “UAV weapon.”

11:50 am – A report from Israel advocacy group The Israel Project says that following the attempted terror infiltration via tunnel earlier today, “The emerging political consensus in Israel is that a ground operation – aimed at degrading the (partly offensive) tunnel network – can’t be avoided.”

11:42 am – Two rockets were just intercepted over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. 5 additional rockets hit open areas in southern Israel, the IDF said.

11:41 am – Shortly before 18:00 IST police allowed thousands of area residents to leave shelters and safe rooms, and called off the manhunt.

11:20 am – IDF, police and other security forces deployed major forces in the wake of what officials obliquely referred to as “security issues” near several civilian communities east of Gaza.

Authorities feared that a Palestinian terror cell from Gaza was loose within Israeli territory, Israel Radio said.

10:01 am – The BBC reported a full ceasefire deal had been reached between Israel and Hamas. Israelis and others denied the report.

9:10 am – Israel observed a humanitarian truce starting 10:00 am IST to allow aid into Gaza. During the allotted period mortars were fired into Israel from Gaza.

8:15 am – Overnight the IDF thwarted a major terror infiltration attempt two kilometers from the Israeli community of Sufa. “‹

PREAMBLE: 7:45 am – Early on Tuesday July 8th Israel launched Operation Protective Edge aimed at stopping “the constant terror activity that Hamas is aiming at Israeli civilians.” The major Gaza initiative comes in response to a significant increase in rocket attacks over the past weeks.

Since the start of the initiative Israel has targeted over 1600 terror sites and has seen over 1200 rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli cities including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Gedera. More than 6 million Israelis are under threat of rocket attacks and many are spending the nights in bomb shelters. Over 200 deaths have been reported in Gaza and one Israeli was killed in a mortar strike.

This Tuesday, while Israel accepted an Egyptian proposed ceasefire, Hamas rejected it and fired volleys of rockets into Israel.

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