Israel Announces Ground Offensive In Gaza Strip, Then Denies

On the fourth day of a new bloody conflict in Palestinian territory, the Israeli army announced shortly before midnight that it had deployed soldiers in the Gaza Strip … before denying the information, citing “an internal communication problem”.

Psychological warfare or simple mistake? After announcing the presence of its soldiers in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army backed down on Friday May 14, citing an “internal communication problem” . “The Israeli air force and ground troops are carrying out an attack in Gaza,” the army first wrote in a brief message. Asked by AFP, army spokesman Jonathan Conricus confirmed that soldiers had entered “into” the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamists of Hamas, without specifying their number, duration or time. scope of the operation.

Then, two hours later, the IDF spokesperson issued a “clarification” to say “that there are currently no troops in the Gaza Strip. ” Questioned again, the army spokesman explained this apparent imbroglio by an “internal communication problem”, specifying that troops on the ground were bombing Gaza but from outside the territory.

The announcement of an Israeli military intervention in Palestinian territory had raised fears of an intensification of the conflict, at a time when the toll of the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip has already crossed the threshold of 100 dead. The last Israeli military operation in this territory of two million inhabitants, subjected to an Israeli blockade for more than ten years, dates back to 2014. The conflict between Israel and Hamas, its sworn enemy, had then lasted 50 days and made the minus 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, almost all soldiers.

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The army on Thursday massed tanks and armored vehicles along the Palestinian territory from where Israeli troops had unilaterally withdrawn in 2005. And the defense ministry gave the green light to the army to mobilize thousands if necessary. reservists.

During the night, the Israeli air force continued its bombardments of Hamas sites, as hundreds of Palestinian residents had to leave their homes in a hurry to flee the strikes, according to witnesses and AFP journalists there. Hamas, which continued to launch rockets at southern Israel, attempted to launch drones with explosive charges at Israel according to the army.

“It will take time, but we will restore peace to Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the site of an Iron Dome missile shield battery in the center of the country on Thursday. According to the army, about 90% of the more than 1,750 rockets launched since Monday from the Gaza Strip have been intercepted by the missile shield.

Shortly after midnight, Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip fired another barrage of rockets at southern Israel, bordering the Palestinian enclave. In addition, three rockets were fired Thursday evening from Lebanon into Israel, but they fell in the Mediterranean, according to the army. According to a Lebanese military source, the projectiles were fired from an area near a Palestinian refugee camp.

“The spiral of violence must stop in the Middle East” , had tweeted earlier the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron. “I strongly call for a ceasefire and dialogue. I call for calm and peace.”

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Since the start of this new cycle of violence on Monday, 103 Palestinians, including 27 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip, and 580 injured, according to a latest report from the local health ministry. In Israel, seven people, including a six-year-old child and a soldier, were killed.

The new conflict was sparked after a barrage of Hamas rockets fired at Israel in “solidarity” with the more than 700 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police on the Mosque Plaza in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian area occupied by Israel since 1967. Clashes on the esplanade, Islam’s third holiest site, had followed several days of intense tension and clashes in East Jerusalem, mainly due to threats of expulsion of Palestinian families for the benefit of Jewish settlers from a district of the Holy City.

Calling on airlines to suspend flights to Israel, Hamas announced a rocket with a range of 250 km to Israel’s second airport in the south, to which airport authorities have diverted flights to Tel. -Aviv because of the shots. Several companies have also suspended their flights to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

The conflict is compounded by an escalation between Arabs and Jews in several mixed cities of Israel, a level of violence not seen in decades according to the Israeli police. Nearly 1,000 members of the border police have been called in as reinforcements in these towns, theaters of riots since Tuesday with clashes and exchanges of gunfire. More than 400 people, Jews and Arabs, have been arrested over the past three days.

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On Thursday evening, a man opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon on a group of Jews, injuring a person in Lod near Tel Aviv, according to a witness and police. Far-right Israeli groups in towns clashed with Israeli Arab and security forces, the descendants of Palestinians who remained in their land when Israel was created in 1948.

Faced with the intensification of the conflict despite international calls for de-escalation, the UN Security Council is due to hold a virtual public meeting on the conflict on Sunday.

The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, the Norwegian Tor Wennesland, as well as representatives of Israel and the Palestinians are expected to attend. The US State Department on Thursday called on US nationals to “avoid going to Israel” because of the surge in violence in recent days.

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