Saturday, February 28, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Israel pushes in Gaza, expanding ground operation

Mideast Israel Palestinians

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building to pick up their usable belongings after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

By
From page A11 | July 19, 2014 |

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a “significantly” wider campaign.

The assault raised risks of a bloodier conflict amid escalating Palestinian civilian casualties and the first Israeli military death – and brought questions of how far Israel will go to cripple Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Officially, the goal remains to destroy a network of tunnels militants use to infiltrate Israel and attack civilians. In its first day on the ground in Gaza, the military said it took up positions beyond the border, encountered little resistance from Hamas fighters and made steady progress in destroying the tunnels. Military officials said the quick work means that within a day or two, Israeli leaders may already have to decide whether to expand the operation.

With calls from Israeli hard-liners to completely crush Hamas, it remains unclear how far Israel will go in an operation that has already seen 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated coastal strip, a fifth of them children.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had ordered the military to prepare for a “significant expansion” of the ground offensive.

“It is not possible to deal with tunnels only from the air. It needs to be done also from the ground,” he told a special Cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv. “We chose to begin this operation after the other options were exhausted and with the understanding that without the operation, the price we will pay can be very high.”

Frustrated by Hamas’ refusal to accept an Egyptian-brokered truce agreement and the failure of a 10-day campaign of more than 2,000 airstrikes to halt relentless rocket fire on Israeli cities, Israel launched a ground offensive it had previously been reticent to undertake to further weaken Hamas militarily.

“It won’t end that quickly,” said Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel’s minister of public security. “Anything can happen. If we need to keep going, we will keep going. We won’t stop. We need quiet for the citizens of the south and the citizens of Israel.”

In a fresh effort to broker a truce, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was to leave Saturday for the Middle East to help mediate the Gaza conflict, U.N. officials said. A cease-fire is “indispensable” for urgently needed humanitarian efforts to succeed, the under-secretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman told an emergency meeting of the Security Council.

The Israeli military said it had killed nearly 20 militants in exchanges of fire since the ground offensive started on Thursday night.

Gaza health officials said more than 50 Palestinians have been killed since then, including three young siblings from the Abu Musallam family who were killed when a tank shell hit their home.

At the morgue, 11-year-old Ahmed’s face was blackened by soot, and he and his 14-year-old sister, Walaa, and 16-year-old brother, Mohammed, were wrapped in white burial shrouds. Their father, Ismail, said the three were sleeping when the shell struck and he had to dig them out from under the rubble.

Israel says it is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and blames them on Hamas, accusing it of firing from within residential neighborhoods and using its civilians as “human shields.” On Thursday, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said a routine check in one of its vacant Gaza schools found about 20 hidden rockets and called on militants to respect the “sanctity and integrity” of U.N. property.

Critics say it is the intense fire itself in such a densely populated area that leads to the deaths of innocent civilians. The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, said at least 59 – or one in five – of the Palestinians killed children were under the age of 18. UNRWA said 40,000 Palestinians were seeking refuge in 34 of its shelters throughout the Gaza Strip.

Most countries have expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself, while urging it to minimize civilian deaths in its ground assault. President Barack Obama spoke with Netanyahu Friday and expressed his concern “about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.”

The operation also brought Israel its first military casualty. The circumstances behind the death of Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20, were not made clear: Hamas’s military wing said it ambushed Israeli units in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. A military spokesman said Barak was likely killed by friendly fire from a tank but it was not confirmed yet. The army said a number of soldiers were also wounded. Earlier in the week, an Israeli civilian died from Palestinian mortar fire and several others have been wounded.

“The ground offensive does not scare us and we pledge to drown the occupation army in Gaza mud,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Israeli public opinion strongly supports the offensive after days of unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza and years of southern Israeli residents living under the threat. Gaza militants have fired more than 1,500 rockets at Israel over the past 11 days, and rocket fire continued across Israel Friday.

The order to launch the ground operation was triggered not by the rocket fire, but by a Hamas attempt to infiltrate Israel on Thursday, when 13 armed militants sneaked through a tunnel from Gaza and were killed by an airstrike as they emerged inside Israel.

The military, which has already mobilized more than 50,000 reservists, said paratroopers had uncovered eight tunnel access points across the Gaza Strip and engaged in several gun battles with Hamas militants who ambushed them.

Israeli forces are expected to spend a day or two staking ground within two miles (three kilometers) of the border in the north, east and south of the Gaza Strip. Then, they are expected to begin destroying tunnels, an operation that could take up to two weeks. Tanks, infantry and engineering forces were operating inside Gaza, where the military said it targeted rocket launchers, tunnels and more than 100 other targets.

Hamas has survived Israeli offensives in the past, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012, but in each case the militant group recovered. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, some long range and powerful, and it has built a system of underground bunkers.

But Hamas is weaker than it was during the previous two offensives, with little international or even regional support from its main allies, Turkey and Qatar. Protests against the offensive took place Friday in Turkey, Jordan and the West Bank.

Egypt, which has been pushing for a cease-fire, is at odds with Hamas’ conditions, which include a lifting of the siege of Gaza and completely open borders into the Sinai – where Egypt is already fighting Islamic extremists.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

US / World

Man shoots wife, himself at Northern Calif. retirement home

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
 
Thieves crash car through electronics store in San Francisco

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Some California farmers to go without federal water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

US appeals court: Marathon bombing trial can stay in Boston

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Congress OKs 1-week bill to keep Homeland Security open

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments | Gallery

US rescinds rule requiring judges to move to Guantanamo

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US, Liberia start 1st formal test of ZMapp Ebola virus drug

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Woman knocked out by eggs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Mexico official: Police capture top capo ‘La Tuta’ Gomez

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Well-educated ‘Jihadi John’ no surprise to experts

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’ as a London lad shocks Britain

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Opinion

How GOP can resolve immigration mess

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A8, 10 Comments

 
Unlikely winners of Greece’s surrender on euro

By Mark Gilbert | From Page: A8

A remedy for veterans’ care

By Bill Frist And Jim Marshall | From Page: A8

 
Editorial Cartoon: Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

.

Living

Today in History: Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Feb. 28, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Feb. 28, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

 
Poem about heaven helps dog owners when beloved pet dies

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7, 1 Comment

Coca-Cola bottle as art? Atlanta’s High Museum takes a look

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B9

 
.

Sports

 
Spurs snap 4-game skid, beat short-handed Kings 107-96

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Thompson scores 25 points, Warriors rout Raptors 113-89

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Casey McGehee’s move to Giants a homecoming of sorts

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Vaca advances three wrestlers into semis at Masters

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

PGA Tour to move Match Play to Texas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Notre Dame president credited for transforming school dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLS Commissioner Garber: Hopeful season will start on time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Travis Kvapil’s NASCAR car stolen from hotel before race

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

McIlroy to miss cut at Honda Classic; Reed leads

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NHL fines Sharks’ Couture $5,000 for tripping from behind

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Browns agree to terms with quarterback Josh McCown

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kyle Busch released from hospital following foot surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bulls expect Derrick Rose back this season from knee surgery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Testimony: Several Hernandez texts are missing from phone

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Approaching ‘last call’ for NHL GMs to tweak rosters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
This date in sports history for Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

.

Business

Gas prices soar in California as supply shrinks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Southwest nearly done inspecting planes that were grounded

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
5 reasons US economy is stronger than Q4 GDP suggests

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5 | Gallery

Tribes from around US gather to discuss legal marijuana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Uber says database containing driver info was breached

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Signed contracts to buy US homes rise to 18-month high

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Fiat Chrysler recalls 467K SUVs for possible stalling

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

Gabriel T. Traub

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Maria Kraszewski

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
.

Home Seller 2/28/2015

Right at Home: Decor made of bicycle parts

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2Comments are off for this post | Gallery

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.80 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3

Real estate transactions for Feb. 28, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3