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Israel invades Gaza after Hamas rejects truce

The Israeli military launched a ground operation overnight in the Gaza Strip, following the failure of ceasefire efforts after a 10-day air campaign.

“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have instructed the IDF to begin tonight a ground operation in order to hit the terror tunnels which penetrate from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” according to a statement late on Thursday from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

The Israeli military said that “a large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun.” Palestinians reported dozens of casualties as the operation got under way, amid heavy bombings.

Medics in Gaza said 240 Palestinians have died in the offensive so far, which Israel says it launched to stop rocket fire by Palestinian militants. The U.N. says most of the Palestinians killed are civilians, including about 50 children.

One Israeli has died from a Gaza-launched mortar shell.

Armoured, engineering, artillery and intelligence units together with infantry soldiers are operating in Gaza, along with the air force and navy, the military said.

The Israeli cabinet late Wednesday authorized the call up of another 8,000 reserve soldiers, in addition to the 42,000 already approved.

There was a brief lull in hostilities for humanitarian reasons on Thursday, but a full truce proved out of reach.

Egypt was trying to mediate. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Cairo meeting with officials before heading to Turkey.

“Egypt is determined to make all efforts to reach a truce in order to stop the Palestinian bloodshed,” Egyptian presidential spokesman Ihab Badwai quoted President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi as telling Mr. Abbas.

An Israeli delegation left Cairo after talks with Egyptian officials on a proposed long-term truce for the Gaza Strip. Hamas delegates were in Cairo and have met with Mr. Abbas.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel do not talk to each other directly.

M. Abbas’ Fatah faction, which runs the West Bank and has very little influence over Gaza, formed a shaky unity government in June with Hamas, ending a schism since 2007 between the two largest Palestinian parties.

Israel rejected the government, saying that Hamas refuses to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist.

Observers say Mr. Abbas is trying to extract concessions from Egypt and put himself in a better position with people in Gaza.

Israel controls most border crossings with Gaza, as well as the territory’s airspace and seacoast, but Egypt controls the Rafah crossing.

US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Abbas to find a final status agreement fell apart in April.

Israel had unilaterally accepted an Egyptian proposal Tuesday for a ceasefire, but Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group rejected it.

The militants said they were not consulted about the proposal before it was announced.

Hamas demands that Israel and Egypt fully open their border crossings with the Gaza Strip, which is under a tight blockade, and release jailed members of the organization.

Earlier on Thursday, residents poured onto the streets of Gaza City as Israel and Hamas briefly suspended hostilities under a U.N.-proposed, five-hour humanitarian truce.

There was heavy traffic on the coastal enclave’s main streets, as residents went out to buy food, water and medicine.

Many visited their destroyed homes, salvaging possessions such as chairs and blankets. Others checked in on wounded relatives in hospital. Long queues formed at banks.

“There is a ceasefire, but I really don’t know where to go, because I have no money to go and buy food,” said Alla’a Sa’deya, a 39-year-old father of five, sitting outside his house in eastern Gaza City’s Sheja’eya neighborhood.

Poverty is rife in the enclave, where about half the population is unemployed.

In Israel, especially in the south, people were taking a breather from running to shelters.

Rockets were fired from Gaza, and sirens began wailing again in Israel as soon as the humanitarian lull expired.

Before dawn, 13 heavily armed Palestinians infiltrated Israel via a tunnel from the southern Gaza Strip, but a military spokesman said they were hit in an Israeli airstrike.

Israel’s Channel 1 reported eight were killed while others were injured and dragged themselves back into Gaza.

The Qassam Brigades said it carried out a “mission behind enemy lines” and claimed “all our fighters have returned.” Israel has avoided large numbers of casualties on its side, intercepting scores of rockets over its biggest cities using a sophisticated missile defence system.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 7:14:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/israel-invades-gaza-after-hamas-rejects-truce/article6222539.ece

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