The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched an air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip Thursday, the IDF’s Twitter account confirmed.
“IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli military announced.
The news of an Israeli assault comes after Hamas, the Palestinian militant group occupying the Gaza Strip, fired thousands of rockets into Israel. Hamas’s decision to attack Israel followed unrest which erupted recently in Jerusalem between Arabs and Jews. The outbreak of violence in the region has fallen during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Hamas’ military branch, the al-Qassam Brigades, boasted that it launched 137 rockets at the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod within just five minutes on Tuesday. “We’ve still got more up our sleeves,” the militia posted online.
In response to the rocket attacks, Israel has deployed strategic strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, killing numerous senior Hamas militants, including top commander Bassem Issa. Israel has promised to continue retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, which borders Israel, until there is a ceasefire of “total, long-term quiet.”
The Iron Dome missile-defense system has intercepted hundreds of rockets targeting major Israeli cities and towns, such as Tel Aviv, in the past 72 hours. Air raid sirens have sounded day and night, warning Israeli citizens to immediately take cover in bomb shelters in case the missile defense system fails to stop a rocket’s entry. So far, civilian casualties, including women and children, have been reported on both sides of the ongoing conflict.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and seized control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The unrest that began in Jerusalem has inspired similar protest in the West Bank. Hamas has called for Palestinians within Israel to take up arms and wage a full-scale intifada, or uprising, to reclaim the territory.
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