Netanyahu: We're ready to expand ground operation

Operation Protective Edge picture: Reuters

"Without action, the price that we would pay would be much greater," the prime minister said.

The IDF has killed 19 terrorists since ground troops entered the Gaza Strip last night in Operation Protective Edge, the IDF spokesperson said today. According to the statement, 13 terrorists have been arrested in the past twenty-four hours and are being held by the security forces. It was also reported that, since ground troops began operations, the IDF has attacked about 150 targets throughout the Gaza Strip, among them 21 rocket launcher pits, four houses belonging to senior terrorists, a weapons production site, and four tunnels. This morning, IDF troops also located two terror tunnel entrances in the Gaza Strip. According to various Palestinian sources, Israeli forces have so far refrained from entering the Gaza Strip in depth, and the penetration into Palestinian territory is minimal.

"The IDF is in action against Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip by sea, by air, and now on land as well. Last night, our forces began a ground operation to hit the terror tunnels. Since it is not possible to deal with them only from the air, our soldiers are doing so on the ground. Here too there is no guarantee of 100% success, but we are doing our utmost to achieve the maximum," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of a meeting of the government at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv this morning.

"To our sorrow, a soldier has already fallen and on behalf of all the ministers I send condolences to his family. I am certain that I speak on behalf of all Israelis," Netanyahu continued.

"My instructions, and those of the defense minister, to the IDF, with the approval of the security cabinet, are to be ready for the possibility of a significant expansion of the ground operation, and the chief-of-staff and the IDF have prepared accordingly. Last night's operation came after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and to the UN initiative for a humanitarian truce. In both cases, Hamas continued firing. We chose to commence this operation after we had exhausted the other possibilities, and with the understanding that without action, the price that we would pay would be much greater," the prime minister said.

The Israeli soldier killed has been named as Sergeant Eitan Barak, 20, of Herzliya. He was hit by small arms fire at about 3 am this morning during operations by the Nahal Brigade in Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip, and was taken to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, where he was pronounced dead. It is believed that he was hit by IDF fire. In addition, five soldiers are reported lightly to moderately wounded.

Meanwhile, rocket fire towards Israel from the Gaza Strip continues, with sirens sounding in southern settlements throughout the day, and Iron Dome intercepting several rockets. Late in the afternoon, sirens also sounded in the Gush Dan area.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 18, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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Operation Protective Edge picture: Reuters
Operation Protective Edge picture: Reuters
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