UPDATE 5:30 pm Israel time, Sunday, March 20 2014:
Your humble servant has been reticent to go forward with the following information, but now that it is becoming known around Israel, 13 more Israeli soldiers–all Golani– were killed late last night or early this morning in a variety of confrontations.
This brings to 18 the number of Israeli soldiers killed thus far in Gaza.
Hamas had actually reported this early in the morning.
UPDATE 2:45 pm Israel time:
The humanitarian ceasefire ended almost as soon as it began. Around 2 pm a Hamas terror cell attacked an Israeli helicopter overhead with missiles. A few minutes later, terrorists in Gaza fired missiles into southern Israel again.
Nevertheless, Israel has extended the ceasefire unilaterally until either 4:30 or 5:30 pm.
UPDATE 1:30 pm Israel time:
Israel has agreed to a 2 hour humanitarian ceasefire (1:30 pm-3:30 pm) to evacuate the Saja’iyya neighborhood. This agreement comes despite the fact that Hamas is using ambulances all over Gaza to ferry terrorists and weapons.
In essence, the international community is giving Hamas time to regroup. More people, especially IDF soldiers, will die because of the ceasefire.
The IDF has also set up a field hospital on the Israel-Gaza border to treat wounded Palestinians–who are ruthlessly being used as human shields by Hamas.
UPDATES 12 pm Israel time:
**More than 130 terrorists have now been killed by the IDF in the midst of fierce ongoing firefights. Much of the fighting has been around the Saja’iyya (alternately spelled “Shejaia” neighborhood which is the launch site for many of the missiles against Israel.
Palestinian TV is showing pictures of bodies in the street of Saja’iyya, and reports that Hamas has asked for the Red Cross for a two hour truce to remove killed and wounded.
Large numbers of IDF ground troops are now pouring into Gaza.
**This morning Hamas sent a bomb-laden “suicide” donkey in an attempt to blow up IDF troops. Fortunately, the donkey was detonated by IDF fire before reaching a group of soldiers. Two soldiers were wounded.
**More than 60 missiles have been launched out of Gaza today–check the israelstreet breaking news scroll in the right hand column for details.
UPDATES 9 am Israel time, Sunday, March 20 2014:
**The IDF reports intense battles with terrorists late last night which are continuing at present. Missiles continue being launched out of Gaza every 15 minutes or so.
**Remember the news that UNRWA found 20 Hamas missiles in an UNRWA-operated school in Gaza the other day. Can you guess what UNRWA did with the missiles? It turned them over to Hamas.
**We shouldn’t forget that Egypt is carrying the fight to the terrorists as well. Yesterday 21 Egyptian security personnel were shot and killed at a checkpoint in the southwestern Sinai.
UPDATES 6 am Israel time:
**Another two IDF soldiers have been killed–bringing to 5 the number who have lost their lives since the ground operation began.
Staff Sgt. Bania (Bar) Roval, a 20-year-old paratrooper, was shot to death by a terrorist in a tunnel. 2nd Lt, Bar Rahav, a 21-year-old in the armored corps was killed when the Trophy system that intercepts incoming anti-tank missiles activated in a nearby the tank. It is still unknown how the accident occurred.
May their memories be honored and blessed.
Of the five soldiers killed so far–one was from friendly fire, and one was from the above accident.
Twenty three soldiers have been wounded and three of them remain in serious condition.
**The IDF killed 20 more terrrorists during the day–including 15 in one battle–bringing to 85 the number killed since last Thursday night. 13 more were captured.
2500 targets have been attacked since Thursday. This brings to more than 4000 the number of targets that have been hit in the last week and a half.
**The IDF has now uncovered 34 tunnels reaching from Gaza into Israel. Three of the soldiers who have been killed were as a direct result of tunnel use by the terrorists. This morning, the IDF has deployed elite units into communities along the Gaza border in the event that an increasingly desperate Hamas sends its terrorists through as yet undiscovered tunnels.
One sign of Hamas’ desperation, and it is an extremely troubling sign, was an incident yesterday when a Hamas suicide terrorist emerged from a tunnel, ran toward IDF troops, and was shot to death as he detonated himself. No soldiers were wounded in the incident.
We can expect that Hamas suicide attackers will increasingly take center stage.
**The IDF continues to expand its operation as its “tunnel phase” winds down. The next focus will be on stopping the missiles being launched into Israel.
Yesterday saw 46 more launches of approximately 136 missiles–in other words, roughly the same number of launches but a drop in overall missiles. In particular, there were fewer long-range missiles sent, though one that was fired at Dimona killed an Israeli Beduin man and critically wounded his daughter. Two other family members were also moderately wounded.
The border communities in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Chof Ashkelon regions were hit especially hard by Qassams, but again, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa did not recieve as many missiles as before. Beersheva received the most Grad rockets. Here in Ashdod, we had fewer attacks and fewer missiles in the volleys when attacks did take place.
As Israeli casualties in the war with Hamas begin to mount, it is worthwhile to remember what these brave soldiers are fighting and dying for.
It is the very existence of Israel.
Hamas is wholly bent on our destruction. The last 48 hours has only begun to reveal the astonishing degree to which they have armed themselves with missiles to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers, and dug tunnels into Israel to carry out massacres of Israeli civilians and soldiers.
It is the tunnel situation that seems to have awakened the Netanyahu government from its slumber and explains why the first days of this war have been almost wholly devoting to ferreting them out. Not only are the tunnels a means of carrying out massacres against Israelis, the tunnels also could provide Hamas with a way of attacking the IDF from the rear once they go deeper into Gaza.
The missiles continue being launched against Israel simply because the IDF hasn’t gotten to them yet on the ground. That is why a ceasefire is not in the offing. The lastest projection from IDF Chief Benny Gantz is that we can expect another two weeks of fighting.
Your humble servant fears that more Hamas “surprises” may be on the way. For example, it is not far-fetched at all to think that Hamas has its hands on chemical weapons that they have smuggled out of Libya or Syria (via Hezbollah), or have produced themselves.
Would Hamas use chemical weapons on missiles being launched into Israel? Would Hamas use chemical weapons within Gaza even at the risk of its own citizens?
In a heartbeat. Cornered and desperate, Hamas will do anything to survive–or to die in “a blaze of glory.”
Why is Israel at war with Hamas? Because our survival is at stake. Remember that the next time you see the international media bewailing the “Israeli invasion of Gaza” or protestors and demonstrators decrying “Israeli aggression against innocent civilians.”