Israel Begins Ground Operation to Stop Hamas Rockets
TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israel has begun ground operations in the Gaza Strip to stop Hamas rockets from being fired on the Jewish state, after a brief truce Thursday.
The Israeli Defense Force said the objective is to strike a "significant" blow to the infrastructure of the Gamas terror group.
The ground phase "will include close coordination between IDF units including infantry, armored corps, engineer corps, artillery, and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support," the IDF said in a statement.
The incursion follows "10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air, and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation," the IDF said.
CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief spoke by phone as the invasion developed. Click play to hear what's going on right now.
Earlier, Israel and Hamas had agreed to a five-hour humanitarian truce on Thursday to allow additional humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
Throughout the conflict, the Jewish state has continued to allow tractor trailer trucks to deliver goods to the Gaza Strip.
The truce brought a quiet to the area for the first time since Hamas began its rocket barrages almost two weeks ago. So far, the terror group has fired well over 1,000 rockets into Israel while Israel has continued its aerial bombardment to stop that rocket fire.
Four young Palestinian boys died in one strike on a Gazan beach. And the first Israeli casualty in Operation Protective Edge, Dror Hanin, a 37-year-old father of three, was laid to rest Wednesday.
Hanin was killed in a rocket attack as he was delivering food to soldiers at an IDF base near the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip.
Paul Hirschon from Israel's Foreign Ministry said the IDF strives to avoid civilian casualties.
"The Israeli military is taking every possible step it can to avoid civilian casualties," Hirschon told CBN News. "You can see it online. All the film footage is there of pilots flying in, reporting that they see people and the controls saying to them 'cancel, go away, move on, come back.'
"[There are] messages going out," he continued, "leaflets being dropped, phone calls, SMS messages, people being asked to evacuate. We're telling them where we're going to strike. It's unheard of in military history."
On the diplomatic front, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Cairo to help broker a ceasefire while President Barack Obama said the United States would continue its diplomatic efforts.
"The Israeli people and the Palestinian people don't want to live like this," Obama said. "They deserve to live in peace and security free from fear. And that's why we're going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the ceasefire and we support Egypt's continued efforts to bring this about."
While the diplomatic efforts go on, the IDF continued its preparation for a ground offensive. Israel called up 8,000 more troops, raising the number to 56,000 gearing up for an incursion to stop Hamas rocket fire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would use as much force as necessary to restore quiet. He also noted Israel accepted a ceasefire endorsed by the United Nations and the Arab League while Hamas rejected it.
Hamas reportedly wants the release of Hamas prisoners, the majority incarcerated for terror attacks against Israeli civilians. The terror group also wants the opening of the Gaza border crossings.
Earlier Thursday, Israeli troops stopped 13 Hamas jihadists from infiltrating Israel.
"IDF forces identified approximately 13 terrorists while penetrating Israel through a terror tunnel constructed by Hamas. The tunnel led from the southern Gaza Strip toward the southern Israeli community of Sufa," the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement, accompanied by video footage.
The terrorists were attempting to attack an Israeli kibbutz. The IDF included pictures of weapons found at the entrance to the tunnel.
Netanyahu also raised the idea of a demilitarized Gaza. In the meantime, he said, Israel would do what it needed to protect its citizens.