- There was confusion when the IDF suggested troops were on the ground in Gaza, before retracting the statement and saying that forces attacked Hamas tunnels along the border but did not cross it
- Turned out to be a well-planned ploy get Hamas to send its fighters into its underground tunnel system beneath Gaza City, before bombarding the area, in the hope of eliminating large numbers of militants
- Still, fears of invasion remain with thousands of troops moving to the border and 9,000 reservists called up
- Israel stepped up its attacks on Gaza overnight with more than 1,000 bombs and shells pounding northern and eastern areas in the heaviest attacks of the conflict so far
- Meanwhile Hamas has continued firing hundreds of rockets at Israel from Gaza and was joined overnight by three rockets fired from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, though all of them fell short
- More street clashes took place in Israeli-Arab city of Lod, with fighting reported in Jaffa and Umm al-Fahm
- Fighting continued this morning as IDF jets struck what they called underground rocket sites and observation posts around Gaza, with Hamas suicide drones sent the other way
The Israel Defence Forces managed to trick Hamas into believing a ground invasion was underway last night and then obliterated their tunnel network knowing militants would be hiding underground waiting to ambush tanks and soldiers, reports in Israel claim.
There was confusion when the IDF said shortly after midnight that ground forces were ‘attacking in Gaza’, and later suggested that boots were on the ground. A spokesman later retracted that statement – saying that military operations were conducted along the border, but no Israeli troops had crossed it.
However, the announcement was apparently a well-planned ploy to get Hamas to send its fighters into its underground tunnel system beneath Gaza City, before bombarding the area, in the hope of eliminating large numbers of the organisation’s operatives in one foul swoop.
Helicopters, jets, gun boats and artillery pounded northern and eastern parts of Gaza with more than 1,000 bombs and shells overnight Thursday as the IDF said it had carried out a ‘complex’ operation to destroy Hamas tunnels underneath Gaza City, which the military refers to as ‘the Metro’.
Neither Israel nor Hamas has yet announced how much of the network was destroyed overnight, but initial estimates said a large number of fighters were buried as the IDF collapsed the tunnel system on their heads, Israel National News reported.
The death toll currently stands at 119 Palestinians killed, including 31 children and 19 women, with 830 wounded. Nine Israelis have been killed, including one soldier and a six-year-old boy.
In response, Hamas fired 220 rockets from Gaza at cities in Israel overnight, the IDF said, and was joined by three rockets fired from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon – though all of them fell short.
Attacks continued this morning, with Israeli jets striking what the IDF called underground rocket sites in Gaza City and Hamas watchtowers. Meanwhile sirens sounded on the Israeli side of the border as Hamas attacked with suicide drones, while several Israeli troops were injured in a knife attack near the West Bank city of Ofra.
Elsewhere, more street clashes took place overnight in the mixed Israeli-Arab city of Lod, with a synagogue burned to the ground. A 19-year-old IDF solider was also badly beaten in the Tel Aviv suburb of Jaffa and a Jewish family were attacked inside their car in Umm al-Fahm.
Far-right Jewish groups were also calling for attacks on Arabs and their businesses in the cities of Be’er Sheva and Ramle, according to Israeli news site Ynet.
Despite the rapidly escalating violence and amid calls for urgent deescalation from world leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed today that there would be no let-up in attacks.
‘I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas. We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force,’ he said.
An explosion lights the sky following an Israeli air strike on Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14 as the violence continues
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Netanyahu ‘stoking tensions to distract from his political problems’
An Israeli-Arab MP has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of stoking tensions between Muslims and Jews in order to escape his own political problems.
Netanyahu was faced with being forced from power last month after he failed to form a coalition government following Israel’s fourth election in two years.
But on Friday, talks to form a coalition without him collapsed as a key party leader withdrew from negotiations – calling the conflict a ‘reality-altering events’ and saying he will now seek a broad ‘unity government’, likely with Netanyahu as the head.
Aida Touma-Sliman, a member of the Israeli parliament, had earlier accused Netanyahu of using the conflict to ‘divert’ people from his political issues.
‘There is a political intention by… Netanyahu and his ministers to escalate the situation more and more,’ she told the BBC.
‘If the debate in Israel under discussion and the tension till last month was between [Netanyahu’s] camp and the anti-Benjamin Netanyahu camp, they wanted to divert it into a kind of a war, a citizens’ war between Jews and Arabs.’