The IDF withdrew majority of its ground troops from Gaza on Sunday in what is being viewed as an Israeli de-escalation of the almost month-long conflict in Gaza.
At the start of the ground offensive in Gaza, Israel made clear that its main mission was to destroy the labyrinth of terror tunnels built by Hamas in Gaza and restore calm and security to Israel.
Even as Israel announced that it has almost completed its mission, heavy fighting broke out across Gaza on Sunday. Hamas officials have vowed that regardless of whether Israel would unilaterally end the war, they will continue to attack Israel.
IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner confirmed that a large part of Israeli ground troops had been pulled out of Gaza after the IDF demolished most of the terror tunnels.
According to Lerner, some 30 tunnels that we dug along the border with Israel to carry out a “synchronized attack” were detected.
“We’ve caused substantial damage to this network to an extent where we’ve basically taken this huge threat and made it minimal,” Lerner explained. However, he stressed that the operation was far from over.
Israeli Cabinet minister Amir Peretz echoed Lerner’s sentiments in an interview with Channel 10. “It’s not a withdrawal. It’s setting up a new line that is a more controlled line with the air force doing its work,” he said.
On Sunday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s right to self-defense and vowed that he would continue to act against Hamas. Over the last several weeks, Netanyahu has come under significant international pressure, especially from the United States and United Nations, to end all fighting.
“Operation Protective Edge continues until its goals are achieved – restoring quiet and security to Israeli citizens for an extended period, with significant damage to the terrorist infrastructure. It will take as long as it takes, using as much force as need,” the prime minister declared.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, more than 3,000 rockets have been fired by terrorists in the Strip into Israeli cities. In what is being called one of the most violent and bloodiest rounds of conflict between Israel and Hamas, more than 1,800 Palestinians and 60 Israelis have died.
While Hamas attempts to silence journalists from revealing the true extent of the self-imposed humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reports have shown Hamas using innocent Palestinians as human shields and have set up their rocket launching sites in children’s schools, mosques and hospitals.
On Sunday, the IDF said that it attacked 63 terror sites in Gaza and that more than 100 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel. In Gaza’s northern district, Islamic Jihad northern commander Danyal Mansour was killed in an Israeli airstrike that targeted his shelter in the Jabalya refugee camp.
The IDF also announced that upon discovery of yet another terror tunnel, soldiers found three motorcycles leading into the tunnel. It is believed that the vehicles were meant to help terrorists carry an out an attack against Israel.