Buffer zone established, tunnel hunt starts
Overnight, the New York Times reports that one Israeli soldier and 20 Palestinians were killed. (A report at The Times of Israel puts the number at 22 Palestinians, at least 14 of whom were members of Hamas.)
An Israeli soldier was killed early Friday along with at least 20 Palestinians in the first hours of Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip as the violent conflict there entered its 11th day. …
Sirens signaling rockets sounded all night and into the morning across Israel’s south; the army counted more than 50 rockets from the 10 p.m. start of its ground invasion until 7 a.m. Friday.
Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, from Herzliya, was killed overnight fighting Hamas terrorists in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/jo9CPlq3cV
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) July 18, 2014
Israel has made it clear that Hamas’ network of tunnels is its target. Mitch Ginsburg of The Times of Israel explains what Israel hopes to accomplish with the ground invasion.
Unlike the current rocket threat, which has been largely defanged by Iron Dome and early warning systems, the ancient threat of tunnels has no technological solution as yet. “We have no advantage in the underground realm,” said Brig. Gen. (res) Moshe Sheli, the former commander of the IDF’s combat engineering corps. On the ground, in the air, in the sea, he continued, technology offers the Israeli army a distinct edge. Underground, Israel employs a variety of means “but they don’t give us a dramatic advantage, and that’s why this is such a hard challenge to crack,” he said. …
Finding the entrances to these tunnels – often within houses – and charting their alignment and geology, allows the army to neutralize the threat and, at least, set back the timer on these strategic attacks.
In a similar vein, Ron Ben Yishai, the respected military analyst at Yedioth Ahronot wrote yesterday:
This attempted infiltration was another effort by Hamas to rehabilitate its poor operational image and boost its bargaining power during the negotiations on a ceasefire. The relatively large group of terrorists entered through the tunnel that led under the fence close to Sufa, and were apparently intending a major attack with a high death toll and the abduction of soldiers and civilians. Had this plan succeeded, it would have drastically altered the face of this war. …
No responsible political or military leader can afford to have the kibbutzim surrounding Gaza under constant threat from tunnels once Israel and Hamas reach an agreement. So the dilemma of the Netanyahu-Ya’alon-Gantz troika over whether or not launch a ground operation has, with this foiled terror attack, been resolved by Hamas itself.
Yedioth graphic shows Israel's invasion effectively creates buffer zone in eastern Gaza – consistent with tunnel hunt pic.twitter.com/39RG21cIBc
— Dan Williams (@DanWilliams) July 18, 2014
The IDF has released some videos showing the beginning of the ground attack.
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