Bloody Sunday: Day 13 of Operation Protective Edge has seen the greatest number of casualties so far on both sides, with 13 killed IDF soldiers
and over 100 Palestinian deaths.
Thirteen Golani Brigade soldiers were killed overnight and early Sunday morning in several different incidents.
Their deaths raised to 18 the total number of soldiers killed since Israel's ground operation began late on Thursday. It was the largest number of soldiers killed in combat since the 2006 Lebanon war.
More than half of Sunday's Palestinian victims were killed in a blistering hours-long Israeli assault on Shejaia,
near Gaza City, which began before dawn and has so far claimed over 60 Palestinian lives, with over 200 wounded.
With ambulances unable to reach the area, the International Committee of the Red Cross called for an urgent temporary ceasefire to allow paramedics to evacuate the dead and wounded, which was agreed on by the two sides.
Inside the ravaged neighborhood, there were hellish scenes of carnage and chaos as a convoy of ambulances moved in to make the most of the calm, an AFP correspondent said.
Entire buildings were collapsed on themselves or strewn into the streets, while others were still ablaze, sending pillars of black smoke skywards.
There were also bodies, blackened and charred almost beyond recognition, some with whole limbs missing.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a IDF spokesman, said the military met a "huge" level of resistance from Hamas militants in Shejaia, with anti-tank missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic-weapons fired from houses and buildings.
Lerner said that so far, 10 tunnel access shafts were found in the area. He added Shejaia had been a main rocket launching area and that residents were warned ahead of the offensive to leave the area.
"We are mobilizing in order to strike Hamas where it hurts," he said.
Meanwhile, the IDF continued destroying terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, uncovering six tunnels.
Two of the tunnels were located in the northern Gaza Strip. One had five shafts and troops found explosive barrels in them. The other had four shafts and another one inside Israel.
Two additional tunnels were located in the center of the Strip - one with eight shafts and the other with two, one of them inside Israel.
The remaining two were located in the southern Gaza Strip, one with one shaft and another, 1.2km long, with four, one of them inside Israel.
In addition to that, the IDF said that security forces have killed more than 130 terrorists in Gaza,, including more than 60 Saturday overnight, and attacked 1,032 targets overall since ground operations began on Thursday night. Some 341 of the targets were attacked on Sunday.
Although Israel said earlier Sunday it was expanding its ground operation to destroy the network of tunnels used by militants to stage cross-border attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said troops could end their mission "fairly quickly".
And Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon also suggested it could end within days.
"My assessment is that in another two or three days, the lion's share of the tunnels, from our perspective, will be destroyed," he said.
But he demanded international action to "demilitarize Gaza" the tiny coastal enclave, which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians and is one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.
Large infantry forces entered Gaza overnight. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced that the ground forces joined the ongoing operations to destroy terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, which began with the ground incursion.
The escalation of the operation occurred after a difficult day in the Strip, during which four IDF soldiers were killed in a series of incidents.
During the overnight firefights, the Golani Brigade commander, Colonel Rassan Alian, sustained light-to-moderate injuries.
According to the Palestinians, IDF strikes overnight claimed the lives of four people. Gaza Strip residents said last night's bombing campaign was the heaviest of the operation's 13 days.
A senior military source said that 3,000 targets were attacked since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
According to the senior military source, dozens of terrorists were killed overnight: "In the tunnels we found RPG missiles, explosive materials, tranquilizers, booby-trapped fighting measures, communication devices, and even mini-bunkers meant for attacks."
Fifteen Palestinians were arrested during the operations.