Saturday, January 3, 2009

Israeli Press Update: First Injuries; Future Broadening Planned

Ynet News, January 4, 2009 - IDF invades Gaza: Israel Defense Forces ground troops entered the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, as the army launched its long anticipated ground operation.

An [Israeli] officer and a soldier were seriously wounded during the night-time fighting against Palestinian gunmen. They were evacuated to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

Two other soldiers sustained moderate injuries during the invasion, while nine others were mildly hurt. The troops were evacuated to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment. In total, 30 soldiers were wounded....

The army is preparing to enter the third phase of the operation, which is expected to be much broader in scope. In this framework tens of thousands of reserve soldiers will be heading to training bases in north and south Israel during the early hours of Sunday morning.

The reserve soldiers may take part in the third phase of the operation or be deployed in central and northern Israel in case of escalation on those fronts.

"Calling up the reserves and gearing them up will provide us the flexibility we need in case of any development, particularly if the operation in Gaza is expanded," an army official explained.

A third of the reserve soldiers will receive new equipment as part of a five-year plan initiated by the IDF Logistics Corps following the Second Lebanon War. Other troops will have to make due with outdated gear.

A military official told Ynet that troops were advancing in northern Gaza according to plan.

"For the time being, we are facing several hubs of resistance, yet we are not dealing with massive resistance," he said. "Since we entered there have been no unusual incidents, and the troops are operating in line with pre-determined objectives."

Meanwhile, IDF Central Command Chief Yoav Galant has ordered to expand the closed military zone in the Gaza vicinity region so that it will include all areas west of Sderot, Ofakim and Netivot.

Saturday night, the Palestinians reported that the IDF attacked a fuel depot in Beit Lahiya. Meanwhile, the IDF imposed a 30-kilometer (roughly 20 miles) naval blockade on Gaza. The move was approved by Defense Minister Barak and was meant to prevent foreign vessels from reaching the combat zone.

Earlier in the evening, large infantry, engineering and intelligence forces entered the Strip, accompanied by armored corps and artillery units. Navy vessels and Air Force gunships also played a role in the operation. The troops entered various areas in northern Gaza and fire exchanges were reported soon after....

Gaza pounded: Earlier in the day, artillery cannons started to shell targets in the Strip. The IDF said that by Saturday evening hundreds of shells had been fired at precise targets in Gaza. Much of Gaza was enveloped by darkness as night fell.

Meanwhile, Air Force aircraft continued to drop leaflets in Gaza, calling on residents to leave their homes in order to avoid injury. The leaflets dropped Saturday read: "Area resident, as result of the acts undertaken by terror activists in your area against Israel, the IDF is forced to respond immediately and operate in this area. For your own safety, you are asked to leave the area immediately." [Ed.: Gaza is a small completely sealed area and there is literally nowhere for them to go.]

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