• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
5m 6s

Israeli troops push deeper into Gaza; casualties mount

By CBS/AP 1:56 PM July 18, 2014

The government said its goal is to stop rocket attacks, destroy the network of Hamas tunnels into Israel and weaken Hamas militarily. But there are calls from hard-liners in Israel to completely crush Hamas and drive it from power in Gaza. That could mean a longer operation with the danger of mounting casualties in a conflict that has already seen at least 265 Palestinians killed in Gaza, around a quarter of them children.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported that on Thursday, even before the Israeli offensive kicked off, three more Palestinian children were killed when a shell hit their home.

“Suddenly, a rocket came from above and hit their roof,” said their neighbor. “We carried them in our arms.”

Israel had been reticent about launching a ground offensive for fear of endangering its own soldiers and drawing international condemnation over mounting Palestinian civilian deaths.

But after an attempt by Hamas to infiltrate Israel on Thursday – when 13 armed militants sneaked through a tunnel from Gaza, only to be killed by an airstrike as they emerged inside Israel – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the order that evening for thousands of troops on standby to enter Gaza.

“We chose to begin this operation after the other options were exhausted and with the understanding that without the operation the price we will pay can be very high,” he said Friday before a special Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv.

Israel saw its first military death of the conflict in the early hours of the ground assault. The circumstances behind the death of Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, were not made clear: Hamas’s military wing said it ambushed Israeli units in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, but Israeli media said Barak was likely killed by friendly fire. An Israeli civilian died from mortar fire earlier in the week, and several have been wounded.

In a fresh effort to broker a truce, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was to leave Saturday for the Middle East to help mediate the Gaza conflict, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said in New York. He spoke at a Security Council emergency meeting on the conflict Friday, adding that a ceasefire remains “indispensable” for urgently needed humanitarian efforts to succeed.

The Israeli military said it killed nearly 20 militants in exchanges of fire. Gaza health officials said 25 Palestinians have been killed since the ground operation began, including three teenage siblings from the Abu Musallam family who were killed when a tank shell hit their home. At the morgue, one of the victims’ faces was blackened by soot and he and his siblings were each wrapped in a white burial shroud.

Their father, Ismail, said the three were sleeping when the shell struck, and that he had to dig them out from under the rubble.

Israel says it is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and blames them on Hamas, accusing it of firing from within residential neighborhoods and using its civilians as “human shields.”

The streets of Gaza City were largely deserted, though some roadside vegetable vendors remained open. The sound of steady shelling could be heard across Gaza as Israel continued to strike targets from the air, and buildings shook as missiles hit.

“The ground offensive does not scare us and we pledge to drown the occupation army in Gaza mud,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Hamas has survived Israeli offensives in the past, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 from which it emerged militarily weaker, but in each case it recovered. The group controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, some long range and powerful, and it has built a system of underground bunkers.

But Hamas is weaker now than it was during the previous two offensives – from 2008-9 and 2012 – with little international or even regional support, with its main allies Turkey and Qatar largely sidelined by others in the region. Protests against the offensive took place Friday in Jordan, Turkey and the West Bank.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was travelling Friday to Egypt, Jordan and Israel as part of a diplomatic push to stop the fighting. He said in a statement that he wants a cease-fire and lasting truce “that responds to Israel’s security needs and Palestinian economic needs.”

Egypt supports a ceasefire, but not Hamas or its conditions, which include a lifting to the siege of Gaza and completely open borders into the Sinai – where Egypt is already fighting Islamic extremists.

Israeli defense officials said soldiers faced little resistance during the first night of the ground operation. The military said paratroopers had already uncovered eight tunnel access points across the Gaza Strip and engaged in several gun battles with forces that ambushed them.

Forces are expected to spend a day or two staking ground within 3 kilometers (2 miles) of the border and are working in the north, east and south of the Gaza Strip. Then, they are expected to move to the second phase, which is to destroy tunnels, an operation that could take up to two weeks.

Tanks, infantry and engineering forces were operating inside the coastal strip. The military said it targeted rocket launchers, tunnels and more than 100 other targets, and that a number of soldiers were wounded.

Israeli public opinion appears to strongly support the offensive after days of unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza and years of southern Israeli residents living under the threat. Gaza militants have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel over the past 11 days. Rocket fire continued across Israel Friday.

Prior to the Israeli Cabinet meeting, several ministers said they expected a prolonged offensive.

“We need to go in and finish the job. We need to eliminate every terrorist. They have no immunity.” said Uri Ariel, a Cabinet minister from the hardline Jewish Home party.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    Denali Park bear incidents leave one injured, close trails and parking lots

    by Megan Edge on Jun 24, 21:16

    Two bear incidents at Denali National Park this week have led park officials to close parking lots and trails. According to a park release, a small, subadult brown bear charged vehicles by the Primrose area and charged visitors near the Savage River in the Denali Park Road area. Then, on Wednesday, the same bear charged […]

  • Politics

    Judge denies attempt to prolong Medicaid legislation

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 20:27

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A state judge has denied an attempt to prolong litigation challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s authority to unilaterally expand Medicaid. The Friday action stems from a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Legislative Council against Walker last summer. The case was dismissed by a state court judge in March. The Alaska House subsequently […]

  • News

    Alaska Zoo welcomes new male wolverine

    by Heather Hintze on Jun 24, 20:20

    The Alaska Zoo, in Anchorage, welcomed a new male wolverine earlier this week. Jumbo arrived from Sweden on Wednesday. The 3-year-old male is on exhibit, but is quarantined from his partner Olga for the next few weeks. Olga came from a zoo in Russia last fall. Zookeeper Kora Isakson said the goal is to hopefully […]

  • News

    Veteran advocate takes last ride, laid to rest at Fort Richardson National Cemetery

    by Shannon Ballard on Jun 24, 20:12

    An iconic figure in Alaska’s military and motorcycle communities was remembered for his life of service. Fred “Bulldog” Becker IV dedicated much of his life to advocating for veterans on behalf of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and other groups. Becker passed away on June 11. He was 73 years old. Friends and family say […]

  • News

    Brown bear spotted near South Anchorage Neighborhood

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jun 24, 19:36

    Some people who live in a South Anchorage neighborhood are worried about a brown bear that’s been spotted near by. Deborah Baines owns The Learning Farm on Gander Drive, not far from Lake Otis and Huffman. She runs a day camp at the farm, and said on any given day, it’s filled with animals and […]

  • Sports

    Chugiak’s Alev Kelter taking a unique route to Olympics

    by Jake Edmonds on Jun 24, 19:12

    Last updated at 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 24 Alev Kelter is weeks away from joining Team USA Rugby in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She always dreamed of representing her country at the games, but this was not what she had in mind. After graduating from Chugiak High School in 2009, […]

  • News

    Company applies to be Juneau’s first pot-testing laboratory

    by Associated Press on Jun 24, 18:28

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A Juneau company has applied to be the first marijuana testing business in Alaska’s capital. The Juneau Empire (http://bit.ly/28WfumQ) reports Southeast Alaska Laboratories LLC has applied for a city conditional use permit and a state marijuana establishment license. Glacier Analytics, another potential testing lab, plans to turn in permitting paperwork next […]

  • News

    One killed in Hoonah vehicle crash

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 24, 16:49

    Alaska State Troopers say they’re investigating a deadly vehicle crash in Hoonah that killed one Friday morning. The overturned vehicle was found on Long Island Road, troopers wrote in an online dispatch. Another adult involved in the incident was taken to Juneau for medical treatment, the agency said. The names of the injured and the deceased are […]