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NEWS COURTESY almanar.com.lb
After a week of the launch of “Operation Cast Lead” against Gaza, Israeli occupation army started on Saturday evening a ground military offensive into the coastal strip in order to “destroy the Hamas infrastructure and rocket launch pads in the area of operations".
And as it has vowed, the Palestinian resistance was waiting for the occupation soldiers to foil their aggression, killing nine of them and wounding dozens others, according to Ezz-eddine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. Hamas resistance fighters also said they have destroyed an Israeli Merkava with a B-29bomb.
Hamas announced it had captured two Israeli soldiers, an event which, for Israel, would highlight the political risk domestically of sending its troops into Gaza. A spokesman for Hamas' armed wing said Israeli troops faced certain death or capture. "The Zionist enemy must know his battle in Gaza is a lost one for them," spokesman Abu Ubaida said.
Israeli defense officials said that top commanders were split over whether to send in ground forces because such an operation could lead to heavy casualties. Israeli occupation army admitted the killing of one of its soldiers, adding that 30 others were wounded, two of them seriously.
On Sunday, Israeli occupation troops tried to push deeper into Gaza and clashed in fierce battles with Hamas resistance fighters. Explosions shook the northern Gaza Strip and thick black smoke billowed skywards as fighting raged in the largest Israeli military operation since the 2006 war in Lebanon. A Palestinian resistance spokesman said Israel is intensifying its shelling in the Strip to cover its harsh defeat there.
Infantry and tanks were operating in Netzarim, just three kilometers (nearly two miles) south of Gaza City, the main population centre of the densely populated territory, witnesses said. Heavy fighting was also reported north of Gaza City and outside the northern towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanun and Jabaliya.
The ground invasion followed a week of intense air and naval bombardment unleashed on the Gaza Strip on December 27. "Operation Cast Lead" had killed at least 480 Palestinians, including 80 children, and wounded more than 2,300 others before the ground troops rolled in, according to Gaza medics.
Large numbers of Israeli occupation forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel navy, the Shin Bet security service and other security agencies. The Israeli cabinet has also authorized an emergency call up of tens of thousands of occupation reservists.
Ahead of an Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told reporters that Israel will expand and intensify its offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip "as much as necessary." "This operation won't be easy and won't be simple," he said. "The operation will be expanded and intensified as much as necessary. War is not a picnic."
Analysts say that the mere deployment of tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers, with the help of IAF, the navy and other security bodies constitutes a failure for the Jewish state that has been setting objectives for its war and then retreat them. The last objective according an Israeli military spokeswoman was to control the area from where the Palestinian resistance is launching rockets. She also said that, yet Hamas rockets will not fully stop. Israel’s first announced objective of the war was to simply crush the resistance group Hamas.
On Saturday morning, Israeli Radio quoted a spokesman for the Hamas military wing as saying it had repelled an attempt by Israeli occupation soldiers to infiltrate the Shajaiyeh section of Gaza City. Hamas said that its resistance fighters detected the soldiers and fired six mortar shells. Hamas said the occupation soldiers reportedly opened fire and then returned to the occupied territory.