Israel approves 75,000 troops for possible Gaza ground operation

Israeli soldiers (Reuters / Jim Hollander)
The Israeli Cabinet has authorized the call-up of 75,000 reserve troops as the air assault against Gaza intensifies, and amid growing speculation a ground invasion is imminent.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approval was made just hours after a request from the Defense Minister to call-up a record 75,000 reserve troops, Haaretz reports. During ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in 2008, Israel mobilized some 10,000 reserves in preparation for the ground incursion.

The Israeli government had already given its approval to ready 30,000 reserve troops on Thursday, 16,000 of which have already been mobilized.

The Israeli Defense Force has been intensifying its airstrikes on the Gaza Strip amid growing speculation this will be followed by a ground incursion.

So far at least 29 Palestinians have been killed, seven of whom were children. Three Israelis have reportedly been killed by Hamas missiles.

The IDF also confirmed on Friday that it targeted two senior Hamas operatives: Muhammad Abu-Jalal, Company Commander in central Gaza and Khaled Shah'yer, chief missile operator. The results of those strikes have not been confirmed.

Such escalations some believe could lead even to a wider regional conflict, “The Israel offensive really does threaten a wider war,” Sara Flounders, anti-war activist and the head of the International Action Center has told RT, adding that “none of this could take place without support, briefing, meetings before hand in Washington, without US diplomatic, military, economic support.”

Meanwhile, at least three rockets launched from Gaza have fallen on the Jerusalem area. The first time the city has come under air attack in decades. Air raid sirens were also heard in Tel Aviv as Israel’s commercial capital came under fire from Gaza for the second time during the ongoing crisis.

Witnesses said a loud explosion was heard in Tel Aviv. Israeli police reported there were no injuries and the rocket most likely fell into the Mediterranean Sea. Qassam Brigades claimed they used M75 homemade missiles to attack Tel Aviv.

Flounders believes that rocket attacks by the Palestinians are an act of self-defense; “the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves. They have the right to defend themselves with rockets, with digging tunnels, with doing all that they can, because they are the oppressed and landless, displaced people.”

So far there has been no sign of a de-escalation. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated in his Twitter account: “We are going to continue hitting Hamas hard and we will continue to strike hard at the missiles targeted at Central and Southern Israel.”

Hamas has indicated that it does not expect a ceasefire to be agreed quickly. "There are many calls for a truce but it will not be soon," Senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk told Maan news agency.

Speculation that an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is imminent has been given more credence by reports that tanks and armored vehicles are massing at the border with the Palestinian territory. On Friday, senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon confirmed that Israel was considering a ground operation in Gaza.