• 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

  • Politics

    Alaska House takes up crime bill on day 105 of session

    by Liz Raines on May 02, 22:52

    It’s been 15 days since the legislative session was supposed to be over. Members of House leadership say they have to pass a budget before gaveling out, but they spent Monday working on a different measure. Senate Bill 91 would revamp the way the state approaches criminal justice. Gov. Bill Walker and Department of Corrections […]

  • Politics

    Legislature pursues Wells Fargo office space, says current LIO is ‘off the table’

    by Liz Raines on May 02, 21:48

    The Legislative Council voted Monday to negotiate buying the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Minnesota Drive and Benson Boulevard in Anchorage at an amount not to exceed $12.5 million. Sen. Gary Stevens, chair of the council, said purchase of the downtown legislative information office is now “off the table” after Gov. Bill Walker […]

  • News

    Anchorage students raise money for victims of Ecuador Earthquake

    by Alexis Fernandez on May 02, 20:33

    A group of Anchorage middle school students is raising money for the people most affected by the recent earthquake in Ecuador. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 65o people in Ecuador’s northwest coast two weeks ago. Elizabeth Renteria’s Spanish class at Central Middle School is selling homemade bracelets for $1 as part of an ongoing […]

  • Sports

    Dimond High School hockey star signs to play college football

    by Jake Edmonds on May 02, 20:22

    When Chris Gardeline started playing hockey at eight-years-old, his goal was to one day make it to the college level. He never expected it would be on the gridiron. Gardeline was a goalie for the Dimond High School Lynx. After wrapping up his senior season on the ice, his football friends convinced him to join […]

  • Lifestyle

    Lasers replace traditional drills at local Anchorage dentist office

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 02, 20:05

    For some people, a trip to the dentist can be trauma inducing. Finding out you need a root canal or even a cavity filled isn’t fun, but what if you could have those procedures done without using needles or drills? One local dentist says it’s possible with lasers. Dr. Kirk Johnson has used lasers in […]

  • News

    Anchorage’s first food truck hub opens for summer

    by Shannon Ballard on May 02, 19:59

    Can’t decide where to eat for lunch? There are now several more options in downtown Anchorage. The city’s first food truck hub opened on Monday at the corner of Eighth Avenue and K Street. Known as “K Street Eats,” many vendors are hoping it will be boost to their business. Sugar House Waffles has been in […]

  • News

    Crews light fire to prevent fire on JBER

    by Bonney Bowman on May 02, 19:38

    Nearly 2,000 acres of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson land will go up in flames this week – all to prevent a potential wildfire this summer. Fire crews started the controlled burn Monday, setting fire to live-fire ranges in the Arctic Valley area. The ranges are like a tinderbox this time of year, full of dry grass […]

  • News

    Anchorage detox center temporarily suspends opiate addiction treatment

    by Alexis Fernandez on May 02, 19:22

    Alaskans addicted to opiates will have to wait a few days to detox in an inpatient environment. Alaska’s two opiate detox centers are suspended from accepting new patients after they learned through an audit that they haven’t been following a new federal regulation. Both the Gateway to Recovery Detox Center in Fairbanks and the Ernie Turner […]