IDF mobilizing tanks in event of Gaza ground incursion
IDF prepares to intensify operation against Hamas infrastructure in Gaza, sending tanks and infantry reinforcements southward in preparation for possible ground incursion. Throughout day IAF carried out strikes on nearly 100 Hamas targets; Palestinian health officials putting death toll at 230 people
The Israeli Air Force struck a total of 100 Hamas targets in Gaza on Saturday with the launching of the operation dubbed 'Cast Lead.' Palestinian medical officials have reported at least 230 people killed in the Israeli strikes.
The IDF has also begun mobilizing tanks and reinforcement infantry troops to the Gaza region in the event a ground incursion is ordered. In an interview with the British SKY network, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that ground forces would indeed enter the Strip if the move was deemed necessary by Jerusalem.
Barak did not declare outright that there would be a ground offensive, but said that he could not presume to guess what Hamas' next move would be and therefore was preparing the military for any contingency.
In a message tailored to the British public, the defense minister said the British government would also not tolerate incessant attacks against its civilian population.
"I remember the British government crossing half the globe to protect British citizens that were attacked," he said.
In a later interview with FOX, Barak addressed the American public and said that asking Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas would be like asking the US to agree to a ceasefire with Al-Qaeda.
Barak, who suspended all campaigning events for the duration of the operation, will brief government ministers on the progress of the strike in Gaza during Sunday's cabinet meeting.
Rocket fire continues
One of the targets bombed in the strike was the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who was absent at the time of the strike. Hamas' leadership in Gaza has mostly gone underground in anticipation of an Israeli offensive. Most of the other targets were Hamas warehouses and training centers, at one location a graduation ceremony was in progress for new recruits to the movement's security forces. A number of Qassam-launchers were also hit.
During the evening targets in the Gazan neighborhood of Zeitun were targeted, as well as the Jabaliya refugee camp. Palestinian news agencies reported three dead in the strikes.
Meanwhile, the rocket fire towards Israel continued throughout the day, and by 9 pm 64 rockets had been fired, of them 44 were fired towards Eshkol and Sdot Negev Regional Council and the rest towards Sderot and Ashkelon.
The operation had been planned for many months, during which intelligence was gathered on Hamas' facilities in the Strip. The targets were struck over the course of the day, in which the IAF performed dozens of sorties in Gaza. The IDF has stated that this is only the beginning.
In photos released by the IDF many of the targets can be seen clearly, and they include a weapons warehouse and a Hamas training facility. Another target hit by the jets was a Hamas security office, which also held a weapons cache. The building had been previously used by snipers and mortar-launching cells.
The central outpost for Hamas' aid forces was also bombed, as well as the former office of the deceased Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
The IAF also attacked a weapons warehouse that held armored cars, two of which were used by Hamas to carry out the terror attack at Kerem Shalom crossing in 2008, in which several soldiers were killed.