IDF soldiers again were battling Hamas guerrilla fighters in the Gaza City section of Sejaiyya Wednesday morning following Israeli government approval to widen the scope of Operation Protective Edge. Israeli forces armed with cannons and machine guns were backed up by IAF Apache attack helicopters in the skies.
Nevertheless, rocket and missile attacks have continued unabated. Qassam rocket fire rained down on communities along the Gaza Belt area in the Eshkol, Sdot Negev and Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council districts for most of the morning, forcing farmers and other residents to remain in their bomb shelters.
The neighborhood has served as a locus for terrorist activity, with weapons being mass produced and stored, and missiles fired from various launchers in courtyards of private homes, school yards, and cemeteries and even from concealed launchers next to hospitals and mosques.
For days, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists have been lurking between buildings and alleyways, firing anti-tank missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and other ammunition at Israeli forces who are doing their best to avoid harming civilians behind whom the enemy is hiding.
In southern Gaza, two Israeli soldiers were wounded Wednesday morning when their armored vehicle was hit by an anti-tank missile. They were evacuated to hospital.
At least 29 IDF soldiers were injured during a battle in the overnight hours; eight were listed in serious condition and the rest in good condition. All were evacuated to Barzilai Medical Center in the coastal city of Ashkelon. Seven Gaza civilians were also injured during the operation, sources said; they too were evacuated to Barzilai for treatment.
In the past 24 hours, IDF infantry and engineering forces have detonated three tunnel routes within Gaza, destroying them completely.
Since midnight, IDF soldiers have struck at least 80 terror sites in Gaza, out of some 4,100 targets since the start of the operation. The IAF struck five mosques being used as lookout posts, to hide weapons and house tunnel access shafts. In addition, the IDF targeted a facility being used by a senior Hamas terrorist who is in charge of the Hamas cyber division. IDF soldiers also destroyed a facility being used by a senior Hamas commander in the Hamas military wing.
According to the IDF, 1,566 of the targets have been linked with rocket launching capabilities, 167 were weapon storage units and factories, and 746 were command and control centers.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, more than 2,670 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israeli civilians.
“IDF forces are continuing with the efforts to degrade the tunnel network in Gaza, eliminate rocket-launching capabilities, and demolish terror elements operating from within the Gaza Strip, in order to guarantee security and safety to Israeli civilians,” the IDF Spokesperson said.
Hana Levi Julian