Israel expands offensive against Hamas; readies ground forces

The Israeli air force pounded more than 100 targets in Gaza yesterday as the cabinet approved the call up of 40,000 reservists.The escalation is in response to the more than 160 rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, some of which reached far into Israel's interior.

Washington Post:

Since the Israeli offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, began Tuesday, Israel has attacked more than 400 sites in Gaza, killing at least 24 people and wounding hundreds of others.

Wednesday’s strikes came after Palestinian militants from Gaza fired more than 160 rockets at Israel, including one that reached the northern Israeli city of Hadera, some 70 miles from Gaza, for the first time. There were no reports of injuries from the rocket attacks, with most falling in open fields or intercepted by Israel.

The Israeli military says the Hamas rocket that struck Hadera was an M-302 class rocket, similar to ones found aboard a freighter that the Israelis intercepted in the Red Sea in March. The ship was ferrying a load of Iranian arms to Gaza when it was stopped, the Israelis said. They said Hamas militants have dozens of rockets capable of striking deeper into Israel than ever before.

The Israeli army said it attacked more than 160 sites in Gaza early Wednesday, including concealed rocket launching sites, Hamas compounds and militant command centers.

The fighting, the heaviest between Palestinian militants and Israel since an eight-day battle in 2012, was sparked by the abduction and killing of three Israeli students and a Palestinian teenager.

Warning sirens Tuesday night sent Israelis scrambling for bomb shelters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where a police spokesman said three rockets landed on the city’s outskirts. Israel said that its missile-interception systems blocked 29 of the rockets, including two over Tel Aviv, and that no injuries or major damage were reported.

Palestinian President Abbas has asked new Egyptian President al-Sisi to intervene on the behalf of Hamas and get Israel to agree to a cease fire. No doubt they will - right after their military objectives have been achieved. Whether that includes some kind of ground operation remains to be seen, but if there is, it will probably be limited in scope. As is their custom, many Hamas facilities are located next to schools and hospitals, making bombing them a dicey proposition. Ground troops can be more surgical in their approach, thus lessening civilian casualties.

Little noticed has been the great success of Iron Dome, the Israeli missile defense system. The IDF reports that "missiles from the system had intercepted 56 rockets fired out of Gaza, preventing strikes in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat and elsewhere." That's a lot of lives potentially saved by Israeli's home grown missile defense system.

That battle is likely to last a few more days, but Israel would like to complete its mission as soon as possible before major international pressure on them can be brought to bear.

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