Israel masses troops for Gaza 'ground invasion' as air strikes and rocket launches intensify

Violence comes after deaths of three Israeli teenagers and apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian boy

Israel has warned that it is preparing troops for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, amid an escalation of violence following the deaths of three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian.

Launching what it described as a potentially long-term offensive against Hamas dubbed “Operation Protective Edge”, the Israeli military has called up some 1,500 reservists and said an incursion of soldiers on the group was “not off the table”.

Nearly 300 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel in recent weeks, including a barrage of close to 100 projectiles on Monday alone, the military said, marking a huge surge after years of relative quiet.

And as rocket fire resumed with more than 15 strikes on southern Israel this morning, army spokesman Lt Col Peter Lerner said an open-ended campaign had been launched to “retrieve stability in the region”.

Around 100 sites in Gaza have been struck today. At least 15 Palestinians, including three children, were killed in the attacks from air and sea, Palestinian medical officials said.

Israel said it had offered a ceasefire on the condition that the rocket barrage was stopped.

“They chose the direction of escalation,” Lerner said. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don't expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”

Israel's defense minister announced a special state of emergency in the region today as summer camps and schools were shut down and residents encouraged to stay close to their homes.

It said five projectiles from Gaza were intercepted by the country's sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system. A German cruise operator docking in the Ashdod port said debris fell onto one of its ships late Monday as it was departing, though no one was harmed.

Among the sites the army said it targetted early today were four houses belonging to militants, three militant compounds, 18 concealed rocket launchers, and other militant infrastructure sites. Most were targeted in air strikes, and three were attacked from the sea.

Later, it also claimed to have destroyed a Hamas command centre that it said was embedded within a civilian building.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kedra said at least nine Palestinian civilians were brought to a Gaza hospital with light to moderate injuries from the air strikes, including several who suffered from shock. He said some of the injured Palestinians were treated and released.

Hamas has amassed about 10,000 rockets, including longer-range rockets that can reach “up to Tel Aviv and beyond,” Lerner said, adding that the army was preparing for the possibility that Hamas would launch rockets toward Israel's heartland and its commercial and cultural hub.

The army ordered hundreds of thousands of Israelis within a 40 km (25 mile) radius of the Gaza Strip to stay indoors, including Israelis in the major southern city of Beersheva, Lerner said.

Lerner said last month's kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was connected to the intensified rocket fire carried out by Hamas militants in Gaza. Israel blames Hamas for the teens' abduction and is conducting a manhunt for two Hamas-affiliated Palestinians in the West Bank it believes carried out the kidnapping and killing.

A woman stands inside her destroyed house in Khan Yunis A woman stands inside her destroyed house in Khan Yunis The Israeli government has not yet provided proof of Hamas' involvement in the kidnapping.

Tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank were later found dead, followed by last week's slaying of the Palestinian youth.

The charged climate inspired President Barack Obama to pen an op-ed for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published today.

“All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution,” he said.

Additional reporting by AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines