By Aryeh Savir
Tazpit News Agency
Heavy fighting continues in Gaza, primarily in the Shuja’iya neighborhood, which Hamas uses as a fortress for its weapons, rockets, tunnels and command centers. Hamas exploits the neighborhood’s residents as human shields for its terrorist activity. Urban warfare in Gaza presents a unique set of challenge; civilians are present, a tunnel network runs underneath the battlefield, and terrorists are familiar with the terrain. Since the beginning of the ground phase of the operation, IDF soldiers have found 14 openings to terror tunnels in Shuja’iya
Over the course of yesterday, IDF forces have detected and detonated 6 offensive tunnels both in the Gaza Strip area and in Israeli territory. The tunnels pose an imminent threat to the safety of Israeli civilians living in communities along the Gaza Strip border and have been used recently several times to attack Israeli civilian communities within Israel. One of the tunnels uncovered in the southern Gaza Strip had 4 access points to it, one of them in Israel. During the detonation several secondary explosions were identified, suggesting it contained explosives. One of the access points in Gaza was uncovered inside a house. The tunnel was 1.2 KM long.
Speaking about the ‘tunnel city’ under Gaza, IDF Spokesman, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said: “Since the beginning of the ground phase of the operation, the IDF has exposed 14 tunnels headed towards Israel, all intended to infiltrate Israel and carry out terror attacks. It’s like the ‘Underground’, the ‘Metro’ or the ‘Subway’. These tunnels are all connected. I would describe it as ‘Lower Gaza’.”
Thirteen IDF soldiers of the Golani Brigade were killed in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours in several different incidents, bringing the number of killed soldiers in Operation ‘Protective Edge’ to 18. The IDF published the names of five of them. In an extremely difficult day to come, they will be laid to rest at military cemeteries across Israel. Making a statement to the press, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said that while the army suffered more losses in the past 24 hours than it did in previous days, “we understand that in battle, some are killed. But we know that this is our job and this is what we’re doing. The battles in some of these areas are both complex and difficult and despite that we remain determined to reach our objectives,” Gantz added. The chief of staff praised the work of the IDF soldiers and said the army was continuing to expand and intensify its operations. “Terrorists are hit; infrastructure is hit and destroyed in every area we enter.”
Relating to the continuation of the operation, Defense Minister Ya’alon stated that the operation will continue until there is quiet, adding that the IDF will draft more reservists if necessary. He estimated that it would take another two or three days to complete most of the mission to hunt and destroy the terror tunnels.
Since the beginning of the ground phase of the operation the IDF engaged and killed 110 terrorist, and targeted 1,032 terror sites, 341 of which were targeted since this morning. Among the sites that were targeted were rocket launching facilities, command and control headquarters, and underground rocket launchers.