GAZA CITY — Israeli military launched a ground invasion of Gaza Strip Thursday night, moving its 10-day air operation against the militant group Hamas to the next phase.
“A large IDF force has just launched a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun,” the Israeli Defense Force said in a statement minutes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered ground offensive.
“The new phase follows 10 days of Hamas attacks on Israel by land, air and sea — and repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation,” the IDF statement said. “Our goal is to target Hamas’ tunnels that enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks. This requires precise operations.”
Earlier the prime minister’s office issued a statement saying Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered the ground assault “in order to inflict as much damage on Hamas’ infrastructure, particularly its system of tunnels used Thursday morning in an attempted infiltration into Israel.
The ground invasion comes hours after a five-hour “humanitarian truce” that allowed residents of Gaza to venture out of their homes.