• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
5m 7s

Israeli troops uncover Gaza tunnels as death toll climbs

By CBS/AP 9:58 AM July 19, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli troops uncovered more than a dozen cross-border tunnels and battled Gaza militants on the second day of an open-ended ground operation Saturday as the Palestinian death toll climbed to 325 and diplomats scrambled to revive cease-fire efforts.

The Israeli military said it had severely diminished the arsenal of Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, but the militants have continued to fire rockets and on Saturday staged another unsuccessful cross-border tunnel raid.

In the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials reported intensified Israeli air strikes, shelling and numerous civilian casualties, including a mother and four children, as dozens of wounded were rushed to a local hospital in Beit Lahiya. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the new round of airstrikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to 325 Palestinians, many of them civilians and about a fifth of them children.

CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports that in Gaza’s Al-Susi Mosque, there was a defiant mood.

Mohammed Omar Susi, 92, has seen this conflict rage for decades – and told us if he were a young man, he’d fight the Israelis himself.

“We were weak the first time, but now we are stronger than the Jews,” he said.

In Israel, a Gaza rocket killed a 30-year-old man near the southern city of Dimona and injured four others, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, marking the second Israeli civilian casualty from the latest round of fighting. An Israeli soldier was killed after the start of the ground operation, likely from friendly fire.

The Israeli military said that during its first 24 hours on the ground in Gaza troops had discovered 13 tunnels into Israel – some as deep as 30 meters (yards) – that could be used to carry out attacks. The military said it thwarted a second infiltration attempt through such a tunnel, killing one militant and forcing the others to return to Gaza.

The military also said that in 12 days of fighting it has hit 2,350 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers.

Militants have fired more than 1,600 rockets since the latest round of fighting began on July 8. Rocket fire continued overnight, including one that landed in a residential neighborhood in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, causing no injuries.

“We have struck hard on the two main strategic assets of Hamas: the rockets and these tunnels,” said Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

Israel says it has encountered little resistance on the ground so far, and has killed about 20 militants in sporadic gunbattles. Three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting, one seriously, the military said.

In one case, it said troops encountered a man who appealed for medical assistance before pulling out grenades and trying to hurl them at soldiers. He was shot dead. Troops also encountered a donkey with explosives strapped to it.

Casualties could mount quickly if the military moves further into urban areas.

Some 50,000 Palestinians are already staying in United Nations shelters, according to UNRWA, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians.

Israel launched the ground operation late Thursday after hundreds of airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled territory failed to halt unrelenting rocket fire that has increasingly targeted major Israeli cities. Al-Kidra said 75 Palestinians have been killed since the ground offensive began.

An Egyptian truce proposal was rejected by Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and has demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade as part of any cease-fire agreement.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Saturday repeated a call for the two sides to adopt its cease-fire initiative, saying it is the only offer on the table, despite efforts from Hamas backers Turkey and Qatar to broker a deal.

“This initiative still presents the chance for the two sides to cease fire, ending the bloodshed,” he said. “It meets the needs of both sides. We will continue to propose it. We hope both sides accept it.”

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. A cease-fire is “indispensable” for urgently needed humanitarian efforts to succeed, the under-secretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Friday.

Israeli officials have said the offensive could last up to two weeks. The military reported making steady progress but said dozens of tunnels remain and would not give a time frame for its operation.

Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, visited troops on the Gaza border early Saturday and said “a strategic national patience is necessary” to complete the mission.

“Hamas and other terror organizations have been hit hard, painfully and extensively,” he added.

But Gaza militants have remained defiant despite the heavy death toll. The Israeli military said it foiled another infiltration attempt Saturday, as militants trying to get into Israel through a tunnel opened fire on Israeli troops with machine guns and anti-tank fire. Israeli troops fired back, killing one and forcing the others to flee back to Gaza, the military said.

“The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip will not surrender to the enemy and will not raise the white flag,” Ziad Nakhala, a leader in the Islamic Jihad militant group, told a Palestinian radio station. “We are open to all possibilities as long as the enemy does not respond to the demands of the resistance.”

Hamas has survived Israeli offensives in the past, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, including long-range projectiles, and has built a system of underground bunkers.

But Hamas is weaker than it was during the previous two offensives, with little international or even regional support from its main allies, Turkey and Qatar. Protests against the offensive took place Friday in Turkey, Jordan and the West Bank.

© 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

  • On-Air

    Telemental health at your fingertips

    by Ivanhoe Newswire on Jul 28, 18:06

    It’s likely that all of us, sometime in our lives will either know someone coping with a mental illness or we’ll experience it ourselves. But 60% of adults and 50% of youth ages eight to 15 who have a mental illness got no help last year. What can we do to get help for more […]

  • News

    Yaks get loose in Eagle River; Anchorage police release 911 audio

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 17:26

    Anchorage police received a call Tuesday morning alerting them to a group of animals that were reportedly blocking a roadway in Eagle River. Listen: 911 call placed Tuesday morning   A concerned citizen called 911 at 6:20 a.m. and said a group of five “long-haired, long-horned cows” were blocking the roadway near mile 8 of […]

  • Politics

    Anchorage in Transition: Chris Schutte talks community and economic development

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 17:09

    With the election of Anchorage’s new mayor, Ethan Berkowitz, comes a new administration. All this week during the 6 p.m. Evening News, KTVA be interviewing newly-appointed department heads about their plans for the future of Anchorage. Monday, we were joined by Chris Schutte, the new Director of Community and Economic Development for the Municipality of […]

  • News

    Barge carrying Japan marine debris from Alaska could reach Seattle by Aug 5

    by Associated Press on Jul 28, 16:55

    A barge carrying marine debris collected on Alaska shores could arrive in Seattle for sorting and recycling as early as Aug. 5. That’s according to state Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Candice Bressler. Debris that’s not recycled will be taken by train to an Oregon disposal site. Bressler says crews Tuesday were expected to finish […]

  • News

    Kroger recalls four seasonings following Salmonella contamination

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 15:39

    The Kroger Company issued a recall on Saturday for four spices following the discovery of a possible salmonella contamination. All four spices — Kroger brand Ground Cinnamon, Coarse Ground Black Pepper, Bac’n Buds and Garlic — are reportedly manufactured in the same facility using the same equipment, according to a statement from the U.S. Food and […]

  • DayBreak

    Sun safety tips to enjoy summer in Alaska

    by Daybreak Staff on Jul 28, 12:35

    Whether you’re traveling somewhere tropical or just enjoying the long sunny days here in Alaska, there are precautions to protect your skin against sun damage that can lead to burns — or even cancer. Tuesday, Andrea Nutty of the Alaska Nurses Association joined Daybreak with some safety tips for the sun. There are a few […]

  • DayBreak

    Travel Tuesday: Testing reveals best pet carriers

    by Daybreak Staff on Jul 28, 12:02

    Families road trip with their pets all the time. However, some pet carriers may not be as safe as you think. The non-profit Center for Pet Safety teamed up with Subaru of America to test out popular crates and carries in a promising, yet shocking crash test. Crash test dummies were stuffed animal dogs built to […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage residents accused of starting Sockeye Fire enter not guilty pleas

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jul 28, 11:11

    The two Anchorage residents accused of sparking the 7,220-acre Sockeye Fire that destroyed dozens of homes have both entered a not guilty plea. Greg Imig, 59, and Amy Dewitt, 42, waived their arraignment in Palmer court Tuesday morning and instead both entered a plea of not guilty through their attorneys. The fire, which started north […]