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8 Jul, 2014 12:47

Israel readies 'ground assault' on Gaza, calls up 40,000 reservists

Israel readies 'ground assault' on Gaza, calls up 40,000 reservists

Israel’s army is formulating options to eradicate rocket fire coming from Gaza, “including ground assault,” an anonymous Israeli official stated on Tuesday. An unspecified number of troops are being called up after preliminary approval for 40,000.

Air raid sirens rang through Tel Aviv as Israel’s 'Iron Dome' anti-missile system intercepted a rocket in images shown on live television, shortly after the troop mobilization.

The sirens rang out for a second time just under three hours later as the 'Iron Dome' intercepted another rocket. Sirens sounded in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the northern Israeli town of Binyamina.

Update: #IronDome intercepted the #Hamas rocket fired at Tel Aviv

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 8, 2014

The reserve soldiers were mobilized as backup for the regular forces in anticipation of a possible escalation in the conflict, spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told Reuters.

Some 1,500 reservists had already been mobilized by the time that Israel approved the calling up of the extra 40,000. Israel’s security cabinet voted in favor of calling up the tens of thousands of extra personnel as part of a potential “ground operation.”

CONFIRMED: #Israel approves calling up 40,000 reserves - #IDFhttp://t.co/WFMP5Vbuxspic.twitter.com/utjYfaRPqY

— RT (@RT_com) July 8, 2014

“The army is preparing for all possible scenarios, including an invasion or a ground operation,” an anonymous official told the AFP agency.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Tuesday: “We are preparing for action against Hamas, which will not end within a few days,” according to RT’s Paula Slier from the Israeli/Gaza border area. More than100 sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip were struck over the course of the day.

There will be no immediate attempts at cease-fire, an Israeli official stated. “It won't end in a day and it won't end in two days. It will take time,” Yitzhak Aharonovitch, the country's Cabinet minister for internal security, told Channel 2 TV.

“If we need to go inside in a ground operation, then we will do it. These things are on the table. These options exist. We will not stop anything until the rocket firing ends,” he said, stating that presently there were no efforts being made to broker a cease fire.

At least 15 Palestinians, among them three children, have been killed in the attacks, Palestinian medical officials told AP. Hamas stated shortly after discovering that at least two children had been killed, that "all Israelis" would be considered legitimate targets, according to AFP.

One specific assault targeted an Israeli assault on a house in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Interior Ministry reported on Tuesday. The home had belonged to the family of a Hamas member, local residents told Reuters, and six people died in the assault, two of which were the aforementioned children.

#Hamas spokesman Osama #Hamdan says #Israel is trying to destroy the peace process

— PaulaSlier_RT (@PaulaSlier_RT) July 8, 2014

Tel Aviv Municipality is preparing to open public bomb shelters, reported Slier, and flights departing and arriving at Ben Gurion Airport are being diverted because of fears they could be hit by rocket fire, according to Haaretz.

Senior #Israeli security official tells journalists: No doubt that #Hamas will try to fire rockets at #TelAviv and even further than that

— PaulaSlier_RT (@PaulaSlier_RT) July 8, 2014

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the military earlier in the day to "take off the gloves," with one source claiming he told the IDF to "go all the way."

Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar told Ynet on Tuesday that the IDF should take more aggressive measures in the Gaza Strip. "Israel need to step it up and operate with more ferocity against Hamas....I wouldn't rule out the possibility of rockets at Tel Aviv," Sa'ar stated.

Early on Tuesday, Israel began a major counter-offensive on Gaza, following the launch of over 85 rockets at southern Israel on Monday. The IDF deemed the figure to be higher.

#Hamas has fired over 130 rockets at Israeli civilians since last night. In response, #IDF targeted approximately 150 terror sites in #Gaza

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 8, 2014

Isra al-Modallal from the Ministry of Information in Gaza told RT that the strikes constituted a "real war" against Gaza, calling for an end to the "siege" and temed Israel's behavior "illegal and immoral".

Peter Lerner from the Israeli Defense Force asked RT: "What is the alternative? To just let Hamas terrorists continue their barrage or aggression, of rockets?"

"This is an unfortunate situation," he said. "Israel had no intention, no wish to go and attack Gaza, but Hamas put us in this corner."

Israeli army tanks are seen outside the central Gaza Strip July 8, 2014 (Reuters / Baz Ratner)

At least 14 people were injured as the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes against Hamas targets.

PICTURE: IDF Strike on vehicle in Gaza that kills 5 including a Hamas Squad Commander. pic.twitter.com/B9DUrbrKlM

— Israel Breaking ✡ (@IsraelBreaking) July 8, 2014

Operation Protective Edge was launched in Gaza following rocket fire, the Israeli Defense Force said on Twitter.

The Israeli air force and navy landed hits on 50 separate targets across Gaza.

#Hamas terrorists operate from civilian areas and use Palestinian civilians as human shields. Share it.

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 8, 2014

A further official confirmed to AFP on Tuesday that the army had received instructions “to prepare different military alternatives in order to be ready in case of need.”

Russia, the US, France and the UK have all expressed unease over events in the Gaza Strip. Moscow has stated that "it is with deep concern" that there have been further escalations around Gaza and that the "use of force against the civilian population of Gaza deserves condemnation."

"I am deeply concerned by the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel. I condemn the firing of rockets into Israel by Gaza-based militants," said the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

"All sides have a responsibility to respect in full the November 2012 ceasefire, and to address the underlying causes of conflict and instability in Gaza," he said.

The US stated that it "strongly" condemned continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and "the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing. "We support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks."

France has urged all sides to show restraint, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal stating: "We reaffirm our rejection of any form of violence," reported Reuters.