Israel launches air raids Gaza Strip amid hints of ground invasion

Source: Telegraph

The raids came as Benjamin Netanyahu indicated Israel may launch a ground invasion into Gaza, after a weekend of escalating cross border violence.

The overnight air raids targeted a smuggling tunnel and an arms cache in the northern Gaza Strip as well as a rocket launch site in the area, a military spokesman said, adding that the targets had been hit.

Israel warned the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Sunday that it would pay a “heavy price” for the latest barrage of rocket attacks into the Jewish state and that the conflict could escalate.

By lunchtime on Sunday, more than 70 rockets and mortars had landed in Israel from Gaza within 24 hours, leaving six Palestinians killed and eight Israelis injured.

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Mr Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said: “The world needs to understand that Israel will not sit idly by in the face of attempts to attack us. We are prepared to intensify the response.”

One unnamed senior Israeli government official, said: “A ground incursion is certainly not out of the question although we hope it won’t come to that.”

The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has confirmed that it is expecting, at the very least, instruction to intensify its campaign of air strikes on Hamas targets.

Commentators have pointed out similarities between this weekend’s violence and the last incursion into Gaza in 2008, when Ehud Olmert was drawn into an operation three months before losing elections to Mr Netanyahu. Israel again goes to the polls next January.

This latest escalation in the intractable conflict between Israel and Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip began on Thursday when a booby-trapped tunnel dug by Palestinians underneath the border fence from Gaza into Israel exploded, injuring an Israeli soldier. The Israeli military believes Hamas had planned to use this tunnel for a kidnapping similar to that of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 or to launch a terror attack inside Israel.


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