Israel masses troops on Gaza border and threatens to invade after Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire plea

Israel masses troops on Gaza border and threatens to invade after Netanyahu rejects Hamas ceasefire plea

May 13, 2021

ISRAEL have deployed tanks and troops to the Gaza border ahead of plans to invade the explosive territory, as the government rejected Hamas calls for a ceasefire.

The country's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has ignored pleas for a ceasefire from the terror group, despite mounting bloodshed on both sides.

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A series of high-profile Hamas military chiefs have been killed in a number of airstrikes and they appeared to be out for vengeance, after firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, including heavily populated Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Hamas was "stockpiling enough rockets to bomb Israel for two months" – rasing fears the region is on the brink of all-out war.

But the tables seem to have turned, as the Hamas offered a truce last night, requesting ceasefire on a "mutual basis" via the Russian foreign ministry.

They have slain seven Israeli citizens, including a child, after launching 1,00 rockets.

But Netanyahu has dismissed the calls for calm, saying the military operation will only "increase in force".

The Israeli military is now preparing to send troops into the volatile Gaza territory, with two infantry units and one armoured unit already deployed to the border.

A ground operations plan will be submitted to military executives today, The Israeli Defense Forces said, before it is submitted for approval to the government.

But it could cause substantial political problems if they give it the go-ahead, as it drastically increases the risk of even more Israeli casualties.

A cabinet minister revealed last night after a meeting with Netanyahu: "The campaign is still far from over. Whatever we don't do now, we will have to do in six months or a year from now."

"When we have hit all our targets and the other side has still not surrendered, we will launch a ground operation even though we do not seek it," he told Israeli news site Ynet.

"This will not end in the next few days," the cabinet minister warned.

"Israel will not stop and has no interest in stopping. It is all moving in the right direction. We will act until they admit that opening fire was a mistake, just as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah did after the Second Lebanon War in 2006."

On Wednesday, Israel pressed ahead and killed the Hamas military figures in a series of airstrikes.

But the Islamic militant group Hamas showed no signs of backing down – firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities, including heavily populated Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

And Israel's fierce military offensive in Gaza saw the toppling of a pair of high-rise towers housing Hamas facilities in a series of airstrikes.

Six high-ranking commanders and a further five key Hamas figures were "neutralised" on Wednesday – including Brigadier General Bassem Issa and Jamal Zabda, head of the group's rocket unit, the Israeli Defence Force said.

And of the 300 military targets struck, at least 20 of those killed were senior operatives from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In renewed air strikes on Thursday, Israel destroyed a six-storey residential building in the heart of Gaza City.

One man was killed by an Israeli missile fired east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, medics said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian militants have stockpiled enough missiles to continue bombing Israel for the next two months, security experts have warned.

The IDF said their "marching orders" were to intensify operations, as Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus added: "We will continue to operate to attack their military infrastructure and prepare additional activities until they get the message."

Israel has prepared combat troops along the Gaza border in "various stages of preparing ground operations", a military spokesman said.

Many people, including the UN, fear the conflict will lead to an "all-out war".

Amid fears the violence could spiral further out of control, Washington planned to send an envoy, Hady Amr, for talks with Israel and Palestinians.

US President Joe Biden said he hoped fighting "will be closing down sooner than later".

Yesterday, disturbing footage showed a mob of Israelis battering an "Arab" driver in the street after he was pulled from his car.

The video comes amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas as the death toll reaches 74 – including 17 children.

Five-year-old Ido Avigal was fatally struck by shrapnel after the building he was in with his mum in Israel was hit by a missile from Gaza on Wednesday night.

As the rocket sirens sounded, the little boy's mum grabbed him and rushed to shelter, according to local Hebrew media reports cited by the Times of Israel. 

But shrapnel from the rocket punctured the shelter's window, killing the boy and injuring his mum.

The youngster was pronounced dead a few hours later, becoming the seventh Israeli victim of the latest conflict.

Health authorities in Gaza also said they were investigating the deaths of several people overnight who may have inhaled poisonous gas. 

Over 370 arrests have been made across the country as street clashes continue in Israel – with Jewish and Arab citizens attacking one another.

Hamas militants in Gaza have launched hundreds of rockets since Monday at Israel, which has carried out air strikes on the coastal enclave.

The Iron Dome in Israel – the first missile interceptor of its kind in the world with a 90 percent success rate at bringing down targets – has intercepted thousands of rockets this week.

The most intense fighting in seven years between Israel and Gaza's armed groups was triggered by weekend unrest at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of seven militants, while Hamas acknowledged that a top commander named Bassem Issa and several other members were killed.

Israeli PM Netanyahu said his army would only use "increasing force" as they look to significantly weaken the militant group.

He said: "We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning.

What triggered the violence?

Clashes erupted on Friday as Muslims packed the Al-Aqsa mosque to pray during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Violence had been building in the Holy City and occupied West Bank for the previous week.

Palestinians hurled stones, bottles and fireworks at Israeli police who fire rubber bullets and stun grenades. The site is sacred to Jews as the location of two biblical-era temples.

More than 220 people, mostly Palestinians, were wounded.

On Saturday, prayers at the mosque compound are held peacefully but violence flares elsewhere in east Jerusalem.

Some 121 Palestinians are wounded overnight, many hit by rubber bullets and stun grenades, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.

Israeli police say 17 of its officers are wounded.

Much of the recent unrest stems from the long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

A lower court ruling earlier this year backing the settlers' decades-old claim infuriated Palestinians.

A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday and risked inflaming tensions further.

On Sunday, the justice ministry delays the hearing in light of "the circumstances".

Scuffles between Palestinians and Israeli police in east Jerusalem continue overnight into Sunday.

In the evening, Israeli police again face off against mostly young Palestinians at several locations in east Jerusalem.

Some 331 Palestinians are wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, in renewed clashes between Palestinians and police at the mosque on Monday ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's capture of Jerusalem in 1967.

"We will inflict blows on them that they couldn't even dream of."

Meanwhile, the leader of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh vowed: "If Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it."

As rockets from Gaza streaked overhead, rioters torched vehicles, a restaurant and a synagogue in one of the worst spasms of communal violence Israel has seen in years.

And after a senior Hamas commander was killed yesterday, the Islamist militant group responded with a barrage of rockets into southern Israel.

Earlier, a group of black-clad Israelis smashed the windows of an Arab-owned ice cream shop in Bat Yam and ultra-nationalists could be seen chanting, “Death to Arabs” on television during a standoff with cops.

Police said they arrested nearly 400 people allegedly involved in riots and disturbances across the country on Wednesday.

Hamas – regarded as a terrorist group by the United States and Israel -showed no signs of backing down and fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities.

In just three days, this latest round of fighting between the bitter enemies has already begun to resemble and even exceed a devastating 50-day war in 2014.

Like that previous war, neither side appears to have an exit strategy.

Israel carried out an intense barrage of airstrikes just after sunrise, striking dozens of targets in several minutes that set off bone-rattling explosions across Gaza.

Airstrikes continued throughout the day, filling the sky with pillars of smoke.

Around 1,500 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israeli cities since hostilities escalated between Hamas and Israel earlier in the week, Israel's army said.

The Israeli Defence Force had said that 1,000 rockets had been launched from Gaza since Monday evening, but by early Thursday the number had leapt by roughly 500.

British Airways cancelled its flights to and from Tel Aviv on Thursday, the latest international carrier to avoid flying to Israel.

"The safety and security of our colleagues and customers is always our top priority, and we continue to monitor the situation closely," British Airways said.

United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines all cancelled flights between the United States and Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

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