IDF suffers first casualty in Gaza ground offensive
LAST UPDATED: 07/18/2014 07:54
The IDF suffered its first casualty in Operation Protective Edge at 4 a.m. on Friday as the army commenced its ground offensive into Gaza. Two more soldiers were lightly wounded.
IDF units seized positions in northern, central and southern Gaza, and traded fire with terror organizations overnight, following the launch of a ground offensive, a senior military source said Fridaymorning. One unit was the target of a failed bomb attack. The IDF expects armed clashes to increase after sunup.
"The units are at their designated place. We expect significant friction to begin after first light," the military source said.
Fourteen armed Palestinian combatants were killed overnight.
"We are focusing on three efforts. The first is continued air strikes. The second is the taking over of targets [by ground units]. The last is preparing the next stage of this operation," the source said.
Ground Forces are focusing on destroying Hamas's extensive tunnel network. In their first few hours in Gaza, they were engaged by gunmen, and returned fire. In some cases, bombs were set off near the approaching military forces.
The source described the resistance encountered by the IDF as "low," adding that the massive wave of fire launched by artillery and air strikes before the entrance of ground units help ensure that Hamas "kept its head down."
"Hamas was surprised by the patience of the Israeli public, and by the performance of Iron Dome," the source said.
"It took Hamas years to plan the tunnel attack on Kibbutz Sufa," the source added, referring to an attempt Thursday by Hamas to send 13 heavily armed terrorists to the kibbutz to go on a killing spree, before being intercepted by the IDF.
The air force hit 103 targets overnight between Thursday andFriday, including 20 underground rocket launchers, and 6 terrorist headquarters. Since the start of the operation, the IAF struck 2,150 targets, including 1,160 underground launchers, 200 command and control centers, nine training camps, and 43 Hamas regime buildings.
The IAF also struck rocket launching squads as they were preparing to fire into Israel, the source added.
Hamas responded with rocket fire on several Israeli areas. In some cases overnight, the IAF struck areas used to fire on Israel immediately, as well as with artillery. "We are directing our firepower at operatives, tunnels, and infrastructure," the source explained.
The IDF has been authorized by the cabinet to call up a further 18,000 reservists, opening the door to planning the next stage in the operation, the source said.
Meanwhile, he added, "very large intelligence capabilities are being activated, and new targets are being acquired."
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.