The Israeli government decided Tuesday
to launch a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, just 24 hours before a dozen Hamas militants were spotted attempting to enter Israel through a tunnel, and before three rockets were launched into Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post.
In a meeting held Tuesday evening the eight-person security cabinet gave Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon permission to launch the ground war as a part of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza at a time of their choosing. On Thursday Netanyahu and Ya'alon met with the Israeli Defense forces top brass where they decided to strike Gaza within hours.
Diplomatic officials in Israel state that the war in Gaza will last as long as necessary with the Jewish state not backing down until two main goals are met, the restoration of calm to the southern region of Israel, and the delivering of a heavy blow to Hamas. Israeli diplomats took quick advantage of the discovery of 20 rockets found near a school run by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza to call on the international community to take a tough stance against Hamas.
One day into the invasion IDF sources reported its soldiers were in direct contact with Palestinian fighters in some parts of the Gaza Strip. The Ma'an News Agency reported Thursday that at least 5 civilians were killed
by Israeli tank fire including a 5-month-old Fares Jumaa Al-Mahmoom who died as a result of shrapnel wounds.
Earlier during the opening stages of the invasion the Al-Wafa rehabilitation hospital came under fire
by Israeli tanks. The hospital cares for a little over a dozen patients some of whom are paralyzed or in comatose states. The director of the Al-Wafa hospital stated that some of his nurses have been injured, although they have been told to evacuate by the Israeli military. Moving the patients is practically impossible.
"There is no place safe in Gaza, if a hospital is not safe, then where is?" Basman Alashi the director of Al-Wafa told the AFP on Thursday.
The constant need for ambulances in Gaza was making it hard to evacuate patients Alashi stated, since they are unable to move on their own and needed to be taken out of the hospital one by one.
"They are tearing the hospital apart bit by bit." Alashi continued.
Sirens continued to go off in the Eshkol region of Israel as well as Sdot Negev, Netivot and Ashkelon. Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers clashed
in the West Bank towns of Halhul, Kalandia and Ni'lin following the IDF's invasion.
Hamas responded publicly to the invasion of the Gaza Strip by calling the Israeli move "foolish" and promising that it would be met by "dreadful consequences."
"The beginning of the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is a dangerous step with unknown consequences. Israel will pay a heavy price for it." Fawzi Barhoum a spokesman for Hamas told CNN.
The last large scale invasion of the Gaza Strip occurred in late 2008 and lasted nearly a month. During Operation Cast Lead the death toll reached 13 Israelis killed as well as over 1,400 Palestinians dead.