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Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in International, Military, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, War | 141 comments

Israel’s Ground Offensive in Gaza – Final Update

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Note to readers:

The news — the daily carnage — coming out of this godforsaken part of the world has become too depressing, too wretched. I will no longer be “updating” such a tragedy.

Readers can pick up any newspaper, open up any web page, tune in to any broadcast or cable station to get the abominable facts for themselves. No middle man, no interpretation, no ‘opinionating,’ no coloring of the facts, one way or another, is needed or appropriate. But that is just my view.

~.~

Jul 27, 2014 3:00 AM CDT Reuters:

The Israeli military started fighting again in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, saying Hamas militants had ignored a 24-hour, humanitarian ceasefire requested by the United Nations.

“Following Hamas’ incessant rocket fire throughout the humanitarian window, which was agreed upon for the welfare of the civilian population in Gaza, the (army) will now resume its aerial, naval and ground activity in the Gaza Strip,” a military statement said.

Residents in Gaza reported hearing heavy shelling east of Gaza City shortly after the announcement was made.

July 26 2014 – 7:30 CDT

A pause in the bombing and fighting in Gaza has allowed Palestinians to survey the devastation, to “try to salvage something from their shattered homes and lives” and to recover the bodies.

The New York Times:

Saturday’s cease-fire provided the first daylong relief from violence for civilians on both sides of the conflict since the start of the 19-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants. The 12-hour lull granted people an ability to move, with Israelis visiting their troops and Palestinians discovering damaged neighborhoods and dead bodies.
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More than 140 bodies were recovered across Gaza on Saturday — including 21 members of one family — raising the Palestinian death toll to 1,139, most of them civilians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. On the Israeli side, 42 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.
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On Saturday evening, Israel’s top ministers decided to extend the lull for 24 hours, but said Israeli troops would continue their efforts to destroy tunnels. Palestinian fighters renewed their rocket fire at Israel, and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said it rejected any cease-fire that did not include the withdrawal of Israeli troops.

Images of the devastation here.

22 July 2014 – 12:00 PM CDT – The New York Times:

Major American airlines stopped flying to Israel on Tuesday after a rocket fell near Ben-Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv, and the Federal Aviation Administration told the carriers not to fly to Tel Aviv for 24 hours.

All three United States carriers with service to Israel – Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways – said they had temporarily suspended their flights. The move highlighted the impact of the conflict in Gaza on the Israeli economy at the height of the summer tourism season.

It also came at a time when airlines around the globe appeared to be much more sensitive about the risks of flying over conflict areas, following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine last week.

For the moment, European airlines are still operating their flights. British Airways, for instance, said it “continues to operate as normal” and is monitoring the situation closely.

Read more here.

~.~

Jul 22, 2014 8:39 AM CDT – Reuters:

Israel pounded targets across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying no ceasefire was near as top U.S. and U.N. diplomats pursued talks on halting fighting that has claimed more than 500 lives.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in neighboring Egypt, while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Israel later in the day. Both have voiced alarm at mounting civilian casualties.

[..]

Hamas, the dominant group in the Gaza Strip, and its allies fired more rockets into Israel, triggering sirens in Tel Aviv. One hit a town on the fringes of Ben-Gurion International Airport, lightly injuring two people, officials said.

[…]

With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 546, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said.

The Israeli military said it had killed 183 militants.

Israel’s casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27 – almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza, in a 2008-2009 war.

Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.

[..]

Violence spread to the nearby West Bank, where medics said soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man while dispersing stone-throwing protesters. A Palestinian shot and seriously wounded an Israeli in the Nablus area on Tuesday.

Dispatched by U.S. President Barack Obama to the Middle East to seek a ceasefire, Kerry held talks on Tuesday in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri.

[..]

Israel has signaled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas’s militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.

And so the eye-for-an-eye and the loss of lives continues…

Read more here.

21 July, 4:47PM CDT – Aid to Gaza -The State Department:

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States is providing $47 million to help address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. This assistance includes:

An initial $15 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in response to UNRWA’s $60 million Gaza Flash Appeal;

$3.5 million in emergency relief assistance from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA);

$10 million in existing USAID bilateral funding, redirected to meet immediate humanitarian needs; and
$18.5 million in new USAID bilateral funding for humanitarian and emergency relief assistance.

These funds will provide critical humanitarian aid, including shelter, food, and medical supplies to Palestinians in Gaza. The United States remains committed to addressing the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people, and will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation closely.


21 July 2014 13:30 CDT – The BBC:

At least five people have been killed and 70 injured by an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, Palestinians say.
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The Israeli military said it believed a cache of anti-tank missiles was stored in the hospital’s “immediate vicinity”
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Overnight, more than 30 members of two Palestinian families died in Israeli strikes, Gazan health officials said.
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On Monday evening Israel said seven of its soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of Israeli military dead to 25.
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Two Israeli civilians have also died in the recent violence.
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The Palestinian death toll from the two-week conflict has now passed 500, the majority of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
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Israel says it has killed more than 170 militants since Thursday night, when it launched the ground offensive phase of its two-week old operation to end rocket fire from Gaza.
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Ten militants were killed on Monday after using tunnels to get into Israel near the town of Sderot.

Read more here.

~.~

21 July – 9:49 AM CDT – Newsweek:

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Cairo to discuss the crisis in Gaza with Egyptian officials and is “expected to urge Hamas to accept a cease-fire agreement put forth by Egypt…”

“The United States — and our international partners — are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. “We believe there should be a cease-fire as soon as possible — one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012.”

Read more here.
~.~

20 July Update

The Washington Post has just reported that Hamas claims to have captured an Israeli soldier

This during a day when 70 Palestinians have been killed “in a heavy bombardment of a Gaza neighborhood and 13 Israeli soldiers were slain in the most intense day of fighting in Israel’s current offensive against Hamas fighters” according to the Post.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the Al Qassam Brigades, appeared on Hamas TV to make the announcement. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the army was investigating the claim. A kidnapped Israeli soldier would represent a victory for Hamas and a difficult new challenge for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[..]

The last Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas was Gilad Shalit, who spent more than five years in captivity before being released in a controversial prisoner exchange in 2011 that freed 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, some of whom carried out terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Shalit was captured by Hamas operatives who tunneled into Israel and snatched the corporal.

Read more here

7/18/2014 08:00 CDT Update:

The BBC quotes Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that his instructions to the military are to prepare to “significantly widen” its ground offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip, targeting the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air.”

The BBC also reports that at least 24 Palestinians — including three Palestinian children killed by Israeli tank fire — and one Israeli soldier have been killed since the ground offensive began on Thursday, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

BREAKING UPDATE:

The Jerusalem Post reports:

IDF ground forces began to move into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the prime minister’s office confirmed.
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The purpose of the operation was to destroy the Gazan terror tunnels leading to Israel, according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.
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“Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.
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Prior to the commencement of the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on Thursday night.

Update VIII:

Reuters:

Palestinians rushed to shops and banks on Thursday during a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that largely held and an Israeli official said Egypt has proposed a permanent truce that would start on Friday.

[…]

In Gaza City, hundreds of Palestinian lined up outside banks to collect salaries paid directly into their accounts, while others went food shopping. Gaza roads almost deserted over days of conflict were filled again with traffic.
“We are here to get paid. Thank God for the calm and we hope it lasts,” said Zakaria Ahmed, 35. “We hope Egypt brings a good truce, we hope the killing will stop and (Gaza’s border) crossings will open.”

Breaking Update VII:

The BBC reports that Israel “will observe a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ in Gaza, after nine days of deadly rocket and missile exchanges with militants,” according to a senior Israeli army officer.

In an interview with BBC Arabic, Brig Gen Yoav Mordechai said “the civilians in Gaza can take the five hours of ceasefire to stock up on supplies and goods.”

The ceasefire was requested by the UN and other international organizations.

It is not known to this author whether the “humanitarian ceasefire” was announced before or after four boys, ages seven to 11, who had been playing on and around a beach in Gaza were killed by an exploding shell.

The Guardian:

In the space of 40 seconds, four boys who had been playing hide and seek among the fishermen’s shacks built on the wall were dead. They were aged between seven and 11; two were named Mohammad, one Zakaria and the youngest Ahed. All were members of the extended Bakr family.
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Three others who were injured made it to the hotel: Hamad Bakr, aged 13, with shrapnel in his chest; his cousin Motasem, 11, injured in his head and legs, and Mohammad Abu Watfah, 21, who was hit by shrapnel in his stomach.

Read another first-hand account here.

Update VI:

The Jerusalem Post reports:

One day after an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas, fell through, the terrorist organization proposed a 10-year end to hostilities in return for its conditions being met by Israel, Channel 2 reported Wednesday.
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Hamas’s conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade.

In the meantime, also according to the JP, Israel is raising the idea of a demilitarized Gaza Strip. Read more here.

Update V:

The BBC reports:

Israel has ordered thousands of Palestinians in eastern and northern Gaza to leave their homes as it continues air strikes.
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The warning came after an Egyptian truce initiative failed to halt militant rocket attacks on Israel.
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Hamas initially rejected the truce but an official later told the BBC it would consider a political solution.
[..]
The resumption of air strikes come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had “no choice” but to step up the military campaign.
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“When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire,” Mr Netanyahu said.
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The Israel Defense Forces are using recorded telephone messages, warning 100,000 residents of Gaza to leave their homes before 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Update IV:

After Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas collapsed only a few hours after the Israelis had accepted it, and as Palestinian militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets, mortar fire near the Erez crossing with Gaza killed the first Israeli in the in the eight-day-old military confrontation, in which Israeli bombings have killed nearly 200 Palestinians, according to the New York Times.

The fatality, a 37-year-old man who had volunteered to distribute food parcels to Israeli soldiers near the crossing was critically wounded and died shortly after in an Ashkelon hospital.

The Times:

The Israeli military said in later statements that its resumed aerial assaults had hit 30 targets, including 20 concealed rocket launchers, tunnels, weapons storage facilities and “operational infrastructure” of Islamic Jihad, a Gaza-based militant group aligned with Hamas.

By evening, the Israeli military said, 125 “rockets and mortars” had been fired from Gaza and that 20 had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense.

While some Palestinians reject the cease fire,

Other residents in Gaza still held out hope for a cease-fire. “Who would want to be bombed?” said Dr. Ayman al Sahbani.
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The question, residents say, is where a cease-fire would lead, and whether it would bring any change to Gaza. The Palestinian enclave has been occupied since 1967, and now, despite the pullout of Israeli settlers and troops in 2005, its borders, airspace and seas are controlled by Israel. There are tough restrictions that have effectively amounted to a blockade, keeping the movement of goods and people to a trickle.
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“Every time they have a cease-fire, but then everything comes back: the siege, the closures,” said Wedad al-Jarba, who was at the hospital, where her two-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Maher, was being admitted with a skull fracture. Israel “never agreed on anything real,” she said.

Continue reading the story here.

Update III:

After raiding a suspected rocket-launching site in Gaza, Israel has warned residents in northern Gaza to evacuate as it prepares to launch fresh air strikes, says the Guardian:

At least 159 Palestinians have been killed since the air strikes, according to health officials in Gaza.
They are said to include 17 members of one family who died in an Israeli missile strike on Saturday evening.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and “terror sites”, including the homes of senior operatives. However, the United Nations has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza
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Some 800 Palestinians with dual citizenship began leaving Gaza via Israel’s Erez Crossing on Sunday.
Others have sought shelter at UN-run schools across cities in Gaza
By 10:30am local time (07:30am GMT), more than 4,000 Gaza residents had taken refuge at eight bases of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, spokesman Chris Gunness said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri described the raid as “a heinous crime”, warning that Israel would “pay a heavy price for its aggression against the Palestinian people”
..
At least three Israelis have been seriously injured since the violence erupted, but no Israelis have been killed by the attacks.
Palestinian sources say more than 1,000 people have been injured since Israel began its operation six days ago.
France on Sunday again condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, but also called on Israel to “show restraint” in its Gaza campaign and avoid civilian casualties.

The Australian government has advised all Australians to leave the Gaza strip immediately.

Breaking Update:

ABC News reports that Israeli ground troops entered northern Gaza tonight to take out a number of missile launch sites, according to the Israeli military.

The mission launched early Sunday local time comes after the UN Security Council urged the two sides to reach a cease fire, and the Israeli government said it hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent more Hamas rocket attacks.
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During the incursion there was an exchange of fire with militants that left four Israeli soldiers lightly wounded, according to the IDF.
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The IDF troops returned to Israel after the mission, and no soldiers were left in Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Update II:

TIME reports that Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza hit a mosque, which the Israeli military said was concealing rockets, and a center for the disabled where two women were killed Saturday, raising the Palestinian death toll from the offensive to more than 120 with more than 920 wounded.. (In an update, the BBC claims that at least 148 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its operation five days ago.)

Hamas says Israel hit two mosques, a claim that could not be immediately verified.

No fatalities have been reported in Israel from the continued rocket fire.

The prevention of fatalities in Israel is attributed to the U.S. funded, Israel-developed “Iron Dome,” which has intercepted more than 130 incoming rockets, according to TIME, although , “militant rockets have reached further into Israel than ever before, with air raid sirens sounding even in the northern city of Haifa, 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.”

The BBC reports that, on Saturday alone, Israel says it was hit by about 90 rockets — several intercepted over Tel Aviv after Hamas said it would target the city.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said:

We have accumulated achievements as far as the price Hamas is paying and we are continuing to destroy significant targets of it and other terror organizations…We will continue to punish it until quiet and security returns to southern Israel and the rest of the country.

In the meantime, and for the first time since Israel’s offensive started, all 15 members of the UN Security Council have called for a ceasefire, calm and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Arab league foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss the continued Israeli offensive and measures to urge the international community to pressure Israel, according to TIME.

While Israel vows to press on with its campaign until rocket attacks stop and is “targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives,” a UN estimate says that in the period from 10 July (1500 hrs) to 11 July (1500 hrs) 77% of the people killed in Gaza were civilians.

Original Post:

Last night, as Hamas was firing rockets at Israel at a rate of about one every ten minutes, according to an Israeli source, as Israel was striking additional targets in Gaza bringing the total number of targets hit in three days to 750, and as Netanyahu was instructing Israeli military to intensify the assault on Gaza, three of us held a summit meeting in a parking lot here in Austin, Texas.

We had just finished a match of tennis and, as we were saying goodbye, the subject turned to the latest chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict.”

This latest round of killings and counter-killings started with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers allegedly by Palestinians, followed by the burning alive of a Palestinian allegedly by Israelis, followed by the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel allegedly by “small militant groups challenging Hamas’s authority,” followed by Israeli strikes into Gaza, followed by an intensified firing of rockets into Israeli territory, followed by the launching of an additional 300 air strikes in Gaza by the IDF.

While it is not known how many casualties the Israeli have suffered in this latest round – in addition to the three young Israeli teenagers — the New York Times reports that this latest offensive has killed at least 80 Palestinians, including women and children.

Finally, an Israeli military spokesman says, according to the Times, “Israel has already mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximizing its air campaign.”

Today, the U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet for an emergency session to discuss the increased hostilities in the ongoing conflict.”

But back to our parking lot summit where we discussed various options to resolve the “conflict.”

Without divulging who said what, they ranged from diplomacy to just “wiping out” Palestine.

On the way home, it struck me how three people — picked randomly by a game of tennis — could have such widely differing opinions on such a grave issue. But, perhaps more interesting, how accurately the “views of three” reflect what I have come to understand is the full spectrum of opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict. We have seen a microcosm of it here at TMV.

Fortunately — and hopefully — there are much better minds, and hearts, at work to once and for all resolve this “conflict.” Or are there?

The Editorial Board at the Washington Post takes a stab at it.

Acknowledging that the latest mini-war between Israel and the Hamas movement is as unwinnable for either side as previous rounds in 2009 and 2012, the Board says — after stopping the fighting “before it escalates beyond the control of either side” — what is needed is:

…not another diplomatic blitz but a more patient, incremental and sustainable effort to restore trust between Israelis and Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, and create the foundations for an eventual settlement.

The Board adds, “That is if the fire in Gaza can be put out.”

To those who were expecting some grandiose, ambitious 20-point “plan for peace,” my apologies.

But think about it, neither repeated wars nor diplomatic blitzes have brought about any long-term solution to this “conflict.”

How about trying something in-between — something innovative — like helping the Palestinian people rise out of their almost intolerable living circumstances; improving the dire humanitarian and human-rights conditions facing them; giving Palestinians hope that tomorrow will be a better day than today and helping them shape that tomorrow.

Unlocking and opening that tattered, screechy door to lasting peace will take monumental efforts, sacrifices and serious give-and-take on all sides.

I know, it is much, much easier said than done — and then there are those who want to wipe Israel off the map…

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