Israel air, sea and artillery pounded the Gaza Strip Thursday night, July 17, as IDF ground forces embarked on a ground attack, just announced by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. DEBKAfile reports a softening-up operation to prepare for the entry of armored and infantry units. The IDF calls on the half million Gazans of southern towns of Khan Younes and Rafah to leave their homes for their own safety. Palestinians in northern towns reeived the same message. Israelis living close to the Gaza border were advised to stay in bomb shelters.
The IDF spokesman reported that large infantry and armored units are operating across the entire area of the Gaza Strip.
The announcement from Jerusalem said: “The prime minister and defense minister have instructed the IDF to begin a ground operation tonight in order to hit the terror tunnels from Gaza into Israel.”
The IDF said: the ground attack has launched a new phase of Operation Protective Edge for striking a significant blow at Hamas in response to 10 days of attacks by land, sea and air and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation.
See the earlier DEBKAfile report below: