As dawn approached in Israel and Gaza, the Israeli Defense Force’s second phase of “Operation Protective Edge” was well underway as Israel attacked the Strip from land, air and sea. Reports from the ground described heavy artillery fire, fiery explosions and tank attacks. Some in Gaza described having difficulty breathing due to “smoke.”
Even though Israel has not put a time limit on the offensive, Hamas leaders insist that it will not succeed in keeping them from shooting rockets into Israel.
"What the occupier Israel failed to achieve through its air and sea raids, it will not be able to achieve with a ground offensive. It is bound to fail," Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal said from Qatar, where is he currently exiled, Palestinian Ma’an News agency reported.
In a statement on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation would be designed to “damage the underground terror tunnels constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory,” making no mention of trying to topple Hamas. (Read the full statement here.) According to Haaretz, Senator John Kerry spoke to Netanyahu early Friday morning and accepted Israel’s terror tunnel targeting, as long as it was precise.
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IDF released a YouTube video outlining the "only way to stop Hamas," which they believe is through "intensive and surgical operations."
Meanwhile in Gaza, Hamas spokesman said they would fight back. Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, "We warn Netanyahu of the dreadful consequences of such a foolish act."
Since Israeli officials announced the ground action on Thursday, seven Palestinians have died and dozens were wounded on both sides. In the past 10 days, more than 240 Palestinians have died, including seven children.
Some earlier reports of injuries from the ground accused the IDF of dropping “poison gas” on Gaza civilians. A spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said the gas was from “smoke shells.”
Palestinians are asked to cover ventilation fans/windows with a wet cloth to minimize effect of poisonous gas and smoke. #Gaza
— F. (@Palestinianism) July 17, 2014
— Jehan Alfarra (@palinoia) July 18, 2014
— grasswire (@grasswire) July 18, 2014
Developed in World War One, smoke shells are a type of ammunition filled with white phosphorus, a substance sometimes used to obscure battlefields. It can burn through clothing and damage skin.
In the early days of the 2009 Gaza and Israel clashes, the IDF denied using the substance until Human Rights Watch published a report saying it had seen “dozens and dozens” of white phosphorous shells being fired.
Whether or not Israel is using smoke shells in this ground invasion has not been confirmed.