Israel bombards Gaza with air attacks, laying the groundwork for a land invasion

Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip to Israel, early Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra) Khalil Hamra AP

According to the military, Israeli artillery bombarded northern Gaza early Friday in an attempt to demolish a huge network of Hamas tunnels within the enclave, advancing the front lines closer to dense civilian neighborhoods and setting the way for a possible ground invasion.

Following days of fighting with Hamas, the Islamic terrorist organization that governs Gaza, Israel has massed troops around the border and summoned up 9,000 reservists. Approximately 1,800 rockets have been fired by Palestinian terrorists, while the Israeli military has launched over 600 air strikes, destroying at least three residential buildings. Since the battle began, at least 119 Palestinians have killed in the Hamas-run enclave.

Irris Makler, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem, described it as “a huge night”.

“What that means is: Massive air attacks, and attacks from tanks and canons outside the Gaza strip and into the Gaza strip […] and at every moment there is a rocket attack coming back here.”

According to Makler, Israel's military has been hitting Hamas both above and below ground.

“A lot of Hamas’s operations have moved underground because of this amazing fire power that Israel has from the air, and so it says it is now hitting it underground as well, and that is why we’re seeing this escalation.”

The increased violence happened when communal violence erupted in Israel for the fourth night, with Jewish and Arab mobs rioting in the flashpoint town of Lod. Despite the fact that the nation's authorities authorized a stronger police presence, the violence continued.

The development, said to Makler, is highly concerning "and the thing that will linger even after this particular round with Hamas"

“Last night, again, we saw a series of clashes – there’s an enormous police presence but it didn’t make a difference – with buses of people who were coming into the flashpoint towns from other places to take part. They were turned away, but nevertheless, a synagogue was burned in the town of Lod,” she said.

People who took a wrong turn found their cars [coming] under fire. It has not just been rocks, and not just crowds, there are actually people shooting at each other with live fire in Israeli cities, and the mayor of Lod said yesterday that he thought Israel was on the brink of civil war, and nothing in the night has made anybody change their minds.”

During the night, thousands of crimson flames lit up the skies over Gaza, forcing residents to evacuate their homes. Rafat Tanani, his pregnant wife, and their four children were murdered in the northern Gaza Strip when an Israeli warplane smashed their home to ruins, according to neighbors. The family was "wiped away from the population register" without notice, according to Sadallah Tanani, a relative.

“It was a massacre. My feelings are indescribable,” he said.

Avoiding civilian areas isn't 'possible.'

A military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, claimed tanks stationed near the border fired 50 rounds. It was part of a larger operation that included airstrikes and was targeted at demolishing terrorist tunnels underneath Gaza City that were used to elude surveillance and airstrikes, dubbed "the Metro" by the IDF.

“As always, the aim is to strike military targets and to minimise collateral damage and civilian casualties,” he said.

“Unlike our very elaborate efforts to clear civilian areas before we strike high-rise or large buildings inside Gaza, that wasn’t feasible this time.”

After Egyptian mediators raced to Israel for cease-fire discussions that showed no signs of success, the strikes occurred. Exiled Hamas leader Saleh Aruri told Al Araby, a London-based satellite station, that his organization had rejected a suggestion for a three-hour pause. Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations, he added, were leading the cease-fire operations.

Late Monday, Hamas launched a long-range rocket into Jerusalem in support of Palestinian protests over police of a sensitive holy site and Jewish settlers' attempts to displace hundreds of Palestinian families from their homes.

Israel has bombed hundreds of locations in Gaza since then, creating massive explosions across the densely populated region. According to the IDF, Gaza terrorists have launched 1,800 rockets into Israel, with more than 400 falling short or misfiring.

The rockets have ground life to a halt in sections of southern Israel, and many barrages have targeted Tel Aviv, a beachfront town 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Gaza.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 119 people have been murdered, including 31 children and 19 women, with 830 people injured. The extremist factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad have reported 20 dead, however Israel claims the number is significantly higher. In Israel, seven people were slain, including a 6-year-old kid and a soldier.

Netanyahu promised to keep the operation going, stating in a video message that Israel will “extort a very hefty price” from Hamas "..

President Joe Biden of the United States claimed he spoke with Netanyahu about easing the conflict, but he also backed Netanyahu, adding, "there has not been a significant overreaction".

“Get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket assaults,” he stated ".

He described the project as "a work in progress." "..

Global Criticism

During three previous conflicts in Gaza, a densely populated territory home to more than 2 million Palestinians, Israel has been heavily chastised by the international community for civilian losses. It claims Hamas is to blame for putting people in danger by erecting military equipment in residential areas and firing rockets from it.

Hamas has shown no indications of giving up. It launched the Ayyash, its most powerful rocket, approximately 200 kilometers (120 miles) toward southern Israel. Although the rocket landed in the vast desert, it temporarily delayed aviation traffic at the Ramon airport in the south. Hamas also launched two drones, which Israel said it shot down promptly.

Abu Obeida, a Hamas military spokesperson, claimed the organization was not frightened of a ground assault since it would allow them to "to increase our catch" of dead or captured troops.

The fighting tainted the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which is usually marked by family get-togethers and joyful dinners. Instead, Gaza's streets were virtually deserted.

The recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem began a month ago. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, located on a hilltop complex in Jerusalem and treasured by both Jews and Muslims, was a flashpoint for conflicts. The Palestinians desire east Jerusalem, which includes sites significant to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, to be the capital of their future state, while Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its capital.