Operation Protective Edge entered its fifth day on Sunday as the IDF bolsters its presence along the border with Gaza.
Four soldiers were lightly wounded in what is reported to be the first ground battle since the start of Operation Protective Edge. Three Hamas fighters were also said to be killed in the ensuing fight.
According to the IDF, elite IDF naval commandos set out to destroy a long-range rocket launching and cache site located near Gaza City. The force were met with resistance when Hamas fighters belonging to the armed wing of the terror organization fired upon the troops.
The incident took place on Sudaniya beach in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas maintained that the encounter with the soldiers was not accidental and that they had planned on ambushing the soldiers.
The IDF reported that the commandos were successful in carrying out their mission in conjunction with naval and air support. They destroyed the rocket launching site before evacuating the wounded to a nearby hospital in Israel.
In separate incidents on Sunday, the Israel Air Force struck several terror targets in northern Gaza, including a senior Hamas official responsible for the current rocket fire on Israel.
The Hamas official, who has yet to be named, was targeted in the Jabaliya refugee camp, a known hotspot of terror activity.
The IAF also struck targets in Beit Lahiya after civilians in the area were told to evacuate by leaflets, text message and phone calls warning of an impending attack. The targets, which are associated with Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility earlier for a barrage of rockets that were fired on Ashkelon on Sunday.
The rocket attack on Ashkelon seriously injured a 17-year-old boy and lightly injured a 60-year-old man. Both were immediately transferred to Barzilai Hospital for treatment. The rocket landed near a building and the boy, who was outside at the time, was hit by flying shrapnel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Operation Protective Edge “may take a long time” and that “we don’t know when it will end.”
“We are hitting Hamas with increasing intensity,” he added, saying that the IDF will continue to “responsibly and forcefully restore the quiet.”
IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said that the army was prepared for a ground invasion into Gaza as soon as the government gives its approval.
“Hamas is exhibiting clear signs of pressure,” he said. “The results of the past days are clear. The situation, as of now, indicates there is great damage in Gaza, and the citizens of Gaza will have serious questions for Hamas in the future.”
“We will continue to act and attack in the coming hours with all the means at our disposal. At the same time, we are preparing the ground incursion which will be implemented the moment the political leadership decides to move it forward,” Almoz stated.