A day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed his nation on television promising a protracted operation in Gaza to destroy the network of Hamas terror tunnels, six IDF soldiers were wounded on Tuesday evening, July 29th by a barrage of mortar shells in the Gaza region. As of time of publication, the condition of the six wounded soldiers has not yet been made public.
On Monday, July 28th, the largest death toll of IDF soldiers in a single day was announced as the Jewish state lost 10 young men. Four soldiers were killed by mortar shells near Israel’s border with Gaza: Staff Sergeant Eliav Eliahu Chaim Kachlon, aged 22 from Tzfat; Corporal Meidan Maimon Bitton, aged 20 from Netivot; Corporal Niran Cohen, aged 20 from Tiberias; and Sergeant Major Adi Brigga, aged 23 from Beit Shikmah. A fifth soldier, First Sgt. Moshe Doino, 20, of Jerusalem, was killed in the course of fighting inside Gaza in the early afternoon.
Also on Monday, another five soldiers were killed when Hamas terrorists breached the border from Gaza near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, according to an INN report. A sixth soldier prevented the abduction of a body of one of the soldiers who was killed. He reportedly opened fire on the terrorists from the guard position he was in, when he saw them trying to drag a body toward the tunnel they emerged from. One of the terrorists was killed and the rest threw down their weapons and fled back into Gaza through the tunnel, according to a report on Channel 2 in Israel.
The IDF was reportedly aware of the tunnel’s existence and it is thus not clear how the terrorists managed to use it. One possibility is that the terrorist squad had been ensconced in a hidden room inside the tunnel network and emerged to carry out the attack.
An IDF spokesperson released the names of the five soldiers, as a nation gathered together to mourn the mind numbing loss. Sergeant Daniel Kedmi, 18, from Tzofim. His funeral was held on Tuesday at the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery. Sergeant Barkay Ishai Shor, 21, from Jerusalem. Sergeant Sagi Erez, 19, from Kiryat Ata. Sergeant Dor Dery, 18, from Jerusalem and
Sergeant Nadav Raymond, 19, from Shdemot Devorah, according to an INN report.
Thus far, 53 IDF officers and soldiers have been killed since the start of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Israel’s military stepped up its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and Palestinian health officials say attacks from Israeli warplanes and tanks have killed at least 100 people in the most widespread attacks since fighting began three weeks ago. The Palestinian death toll has climbed to more than 1,100, according to the unconfirmed reports emanating from the Palestinian health ministry that is operated by Hamas leadership.
Israeli tank fire hit the fuel depot of the Gaza Strip’s power plant on Tuesday, witnesses said, cutting electricity to Gaza City and many other parts of the Palestinian enclave of 1.8 million people. Electricity already had been limited to several hours a day.
Also targeted by Israel were symbols of Hamas control as IDF forces fired on the house of Hamas Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh before dawn on Tuesday, causing damage but no casualties, Gaza’s interior ministry said.
Hamas said its broadcast outlets, Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Aqsa Radio also were targeted. Early Tuesday, at least two major explosions hit the media building, one of the tallest in Gaza, starting a fire on the roof and shaking surrounding buildings. The television station continued to broadcast, but the radio station went silent. The Abu Khadra government complex in Gaza City was badly damaged, and two mosques were hit. Residents also said 20 houses were destroyed during the night.
The IDF reported that the locations were sites of Hamas rocket launchers and civilian residents were given more than ample time to vacate in accordance with the standard of protocol of the Israeli government
It has also been reported that the Palestine Liberation Organization says Palestinians, including Hamas and Islamic jihad leaderships, are ready for a 24-hour truce. PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo added that Palestinians are favorably considering a U.N. proposal to extend the humanitarian cease-fire to 72 hours.
Hamas has not confirmed the PLO truce statement.
In his televised address Monday night, a grim-faced Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would require the demilitarization of the Palestinian territory, controlled by Hamas Islamists and their militant allies.
“We will not finish the mission, we will not finish the operation without neutralizing the tunnels, which have the sole purpose of destroying our citizens, killing our children,” Netanyahu said, adding that it had been a “painful day.”
Also Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel was committing “genocide” in Gaza and said the Islamic world should be working to arm the Palestinian people
Earlier on Tuesday night, at around 8:20 p.m. sirens signaling incoming rockets were heard in Beit Shemesh in Israel, the communities comprising the Mateh Yehudah region, the Jerusalem Hills region and some communities in the center of Gush Etzion, south of the capital, according to an INN report.
One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome over Jerusalem. As of time of publication, it is unclear as to whether more rockets were struck down by the missile defense system, or where they exploded.
IDF ground forces continued to clash with Hamas terrorists as well, with at least five terrorists shot dead after being intercepted by soldiers from the Givati Brigade as they emerged from a “terror tunnel” inside Gaza.
On the diplomatic front, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu has requested US help in trying to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, according to published reports.
“Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently,” Kerry said.
Netanyahu had said he “would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far.”
Kerry also dismissed a torrent of attacks in the Israeli press since his failed mediation attempt during a week-long Middle East trip last week. Many Israelis were enraged after the proposed text of the agreement – which was penned together with Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar – appeared to grant the Islamist terrorist group all of its key demands.
“I’ve taken hits before in politics, I’m not worried about that. It’s not about me – this is about Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself,” Kerry insisted after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.
“I’m not going to worry about personal attacks.” Kerry stressed: “We are working very carefully with our Israeli friends in order to be able to find a way to reduce the civilian loss of life, to prevent this from spiraling downwards into a place from which … both sides have difficulty finding a way forward.”
His comments come on the same day as a spat between Hamas and the PLO, after claims that Gazan Islamists had accepted a unilateral ceasefire were categorically denied by a Hamas spokesperson.
Kerry said if there was an agreement on serious negotiations about the wider issues both Israel and Hamas want to address, it would happen in Cairo, “it would be entirely without pre-conditions and it would not prejudice Israel’s ability to defend itself.”
In the latest poll in Israel, Netanyahu has overwhelming support for an expanded operation in Gaza as 87% of the Jewish population is in accordance with his initiative in this defensive war.
“It is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table, than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence … which will be much more difficult to recover from,” Kerry said.
In Israel, President Obama has come under fire by segments of the population along with certain media outlets by compelling Israel to agree to a ceasefire while it was still being attacked by Hamas rockets from Gaza. His phone call to Netanyahu was immediately followed by a UN security council meeting on Sunday evening, July 27th that called for an immediate cease-fire to allow relief to reach Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable halt to hostilities.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the reports of Israeli forces dropping leaflets over northern Gaza Monday evening warning tens of thousands of residents to leave their homes and evacuate to Gaza City, according to a statement released by his spokesman.
“If true, this would have a further devastating humanitarian impact on the beleaguered civilians of those areas of the Gaza Strip, who have already undergone immense suffering in recent days,” it said. “The United Nations agencies present in Gaza do not have the resources on the ground to cope with, or provide assistance to, an enormous extra influx of desperate people.”
Ban deplored what he said was a lack of resolve among all parties.
“It’s a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian,” he told reporters.
Despite differing reports, a ceasefire has yet to be reached in Gaza, senior Israeli officials emphasized on Tuesday evening.
As of time of publication, rockets have continued to be fired into Israel and IDF activity in the Gaza Strip has continued as well. IDF forces hung signs on Tuesday afternoon in southern Gaza, calling to the residents of Khan Yunis’ western neighborhoods to evacuate immediately. The residents were also made aware of the evacuation notices via telephone calls.