The war in the south is forging full speed ahead, but behind the scenes the serious discussions about a ceasefire expanded Tuesday. There is no decision yet, and as long as the sides do not agree to the terms, Israel intends to continue its strikes in the Gaza Strip, as it has been doing over the past day. In the last 24 hours, Israel has conducted the most intense land, sea and air strikes so far since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
Hamas, for its part, who is a partner to the ceasefire talks, along with Egypt and other entities, continues to seek the “victory image” of having hurt Israel. This will help it internally answer for all the damage and losses Gaza residents have sustained. As such, it once again opened its missile stockpiles and began firing long range missiles to various locations around the Israel, including the region around Yerushalayim, the Dan region in the center of the country and, of course, in the south to Gaza Envelope towns Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ofakim and more.
The Israeli government continued its discussions into the night regarding the adoption of various American proposals for a ceasefire. The Americans are initiating a meeting in Cairo between the Palestinian delegation, headed by Abu Mazen’s representatives, which will include Hamas and Islamic Jihad members, and the Israeli delegation. It has not yet been determined when this summit will take place, but it will not happen before Yerushalayim and Washington complete the agreement between them regarding the framework of what Israel will agree to.
Last night, Israeli representatives informed the Americans that if Israel’s demands to demilitarize Gaza, destroy the long range weapons, and to have blanket permission to continue to dismantle tunnels even after the ceasefire are not part of the final framework, then Israel will not be part of these understandings and will continue — and perhaps intensify — its strikes on the Gaza Strip.
Yesterday’s incidents began the night before, when the IDF targeted more than 70 sites in the Gaza Strip. Among the targets during the night were the house and office of the Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, considered one of Hamas’s most senior leaders. Both structures were destroyed completely. Also struck were four mosques that served as weapons storehouses, terror tunnels and a concealed launcher found near a mosque.
One of the four mosques that were destroyed had a tunnel opening inside. Another mosque served as a Hamas command center.
At dawn, a site that serves as the Treasury Ministry of Hamas in Gaza was destroyed. It is through this bureau that the organization’s terror activities are directed and funded. In addition, the IDF attacked broadcast stations, a radio station and an Al Aksa studio that are affiliated with Hamas and which broadcast the organization’s propaganda, including anti-Israel incitement, conveying instructions to Hamas operatives, and issuing instructions to the population to refuse and ignore IDF warnings that they will be conducting military activities in the area.
During the night, the IDF conducted air strikes that killed ten terrorists in the middle of Gaza Strip. Earlier, a terror cell opened fire on a paratrooper brigade. The force returned fire and struck the terrorists. The IDF soldiers were not injured.
Residents of the eastern suburbs of Khan Younis were called yesterday to evacuate their homes immediately and to go into the center of the city. The warnings were issued through phone calls and leaflets that were dropped.
In the morning, an armored division detected an anti-tank missile being fired towards it. It returned fire to the source of the shooting. No soldiers were injured.
Beginning at midnight between Monday and Tuesday, and through last night at midnight, the IDF struck 160 terror targets throughout the Strip. Since the beginning of the ground operation, 3,150 terror targets have been hit.
Brigade 7 also discovered a central opening into a tunnel that reaches far into Israel. The tunnel was adjacent to a mosque, and uniforms and military equipment were found inside. Several days ago, another tunnel opening was found under what appeared to be a water well. With the help of an engineering force, the opening was imploded, and inside, a pistol, engineering tools and two additional branches of the tunnel were discovered, including one branch that led to the mosque.
Two days ago it was discovered that there is another opening to this tunnel, on the eastern side of the fence, some two kilometers from Kibbutz Be’eri. Yesterday morning, this tunnel, which had no fewer than eight openings, was blown up.
The commander of Brigade 7 told reporters yesterday that there is an entire network of tunnels in the Strip. “Regretfully, the subject of the tunnels and the underground fighting is complex, and we will need to deal with it even after this operation. There is no quick, simple solution,” he said.
One of the primary objectives of the operation, the commander said, is destroying the underground city that Hamas dug for terror purposes. To date, the commander disclosed, Brigade 7 has killed some 60 terrorists, exploded three tunnels and destroyed dozens of terror infrastructure sites.
The operation now continues on two fronts: mapping and destroying the tunnels, and air strikes. “The connection between the government and the army is as strong as it can be,” IDF spokesman Brig.-General Motty Almoz said. “We get clear orders and we update our plans in accordance with cabinet directives. Blowing up a tunnel is something that takes time, and we find the tunnels that we know penetrate into Israel. It is impossible to guarantee one hundred percent success, but we are doing everything according to plan, blowing up tunnels and killing terrorists,” he said.