Ground operation in Gaza intensifies, IDF casualty toll rises • Hamas terrorists carry out multiple attacks using tunnels on Saturday, including apparent kidnapping attempts • IDF to hold its fire for two hours in Sajiya neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.
The twelfth day of Operation Protective Edge was marked by increased attempts by terrorists groups to kill and or abduct Israeli soldiers. Four Israeli soldiers were killed and 23 were wounded on Saturday: three seriously, six in moderate condition and the rest were treated for minor wounds. One Israeli soldier was killed early Friday morning.
The Israel Defense Forces has uncovered 13 terror tunnels and 34 tunnel openings and has cited significant accomplishments after a day of fighting. The IDF expanded its ground operation Saturday night and the Golani Infantry Brigade entered the Gaza Strip. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told soldiers: "You need to clean out the Gaza region [of tunnels], you need to find those tunnel openings. I always said that what the nation sees as an emergency, we see as war. That is how you need to enter this act. You have your enemies, and you have your mission."
With the Red Cross serving as a mediator, Hamas issued a request for a short humanitarian truce on Sunday, as dozens of Palestinians were reportedly killed in the Sajiya neighborhood of Gaza. Hamas sought to use the lull to evacuate the bodies from the centers of heavy fighting.
The IDF said it would hold its fire in Sajiya from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Since the launch of the IDF ground operation in Gaza on Thursday, some 130 Palestinian terrorists have been killed, about 800 have been hurt and 36 underground tunnels have been discovered, among them 14 tunnels designed to facilitate cross-border terror attacks.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the IDF has hit 2,570 terror targets in Gaza.
Saturday saw numerous incidents of fighting inside and around Gaza. One of the most serious incidents was an infiltration by nine terrorists into Israel. They attacked a passing group of IDF troops, leaving two soldiers dead. The terrorists infiltrated using a terror tunnel from the Gaza Strip and emerged near Kibbutz Be;eri, hundreds of meters away from the security fence on the border. The terrorists realized that the two IDF posts in the area were not manned. They then encountered an IDF vehicle on patrol.
The terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at the vehicle and killed two soldiers -- 45-year-old Maj. (res.) Amotz Greenberg from Hod Hasharon and 20-year-old Sgt. Adar Barsano from Nahariya. The two other soldiers in the vehicle were moderately wounded.
Israeli forces in the area engaged the terrorists and killed one, with the rest escaping back into Gaza. The IAF struck them from the air it is still unknown how many were hit in the strike. Later in the day, the IDF attacked the apartment which had served as the command post for the infiltration attack.
The IDF said the clash had prevented a much larger and more deadly terrorist attack in one of the communities in the Gaza border area. It is believed the initial objective of the attack was to abduct a soldier. "The terror squad infiltrated near one of the towns in the area and was surprised by an IDF patrol. The attack was aimed at one of the nearby towns and was thwarted near the [Gaza border] fence," a senior IDF officer said on Saturday. "They realized their attack was foiled. They did not plan on finishing the incident with two killed, they wanted to catch us by surprise and kidnap at least one person."
The IDF closed off the area after the incident, telling residents to stay in their homes. Large forces searched the surrounding area to make sure there were no more terrorists. Soldiers found weapons left behind by the terrorists during their escape, including vests, grenades, handcuffs, anesthetics and syringes, indicating to their intention to kidnap a soldier.
Other attempted attacks on Saturday included a donkey loaded with explosives and sent by terrorists toward IDF troops, as well as a suicide motorcycle.
An IDF captain from the Nahal Brigade was seriously wounded by sniper fire in the Gaza Strip.
At 3 p.m., terrorists came out of a tunnel and fired an anti-tank weapon and small arms at an army D9 bulldozer. Israeli soldiers returned fire and killed the two terrorists. One of the terrorists died when his suicide vest detonated. The terrorists also had handcuffs and anesthetics, once again underscoring their intention to abduct soldiers.
At 4:30 p.m., an anti-tank missile was fired at Israeli forces near Khan Yunis. A soldier from the Combat Engineering Corps was killed. Another soldier was seriously wounded in another anti-tank missile attack. A Nahal Brigade soldier was seriously wounded by shrapnel when fired a LAW rocket at a wall.
At 6:30 p.m., terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli tank. The Trophy tank defense system was activated. An Israeli soldier was seriously wounded.
At around 9 p.m., a terrorist emerged from a tunnel and fired at a soldiers from the 101st Paratrooper Brigade, killing one. The soldiers returned fire and killed the terrorist.
While special forces have been operating in Gaza for some time, the Golani Brigade entered Gaza on Saturday night, widening the scope of the ground operation.
"All the incidents that have taken place are part of the tunnel threat. It is a big deal for both sides. We are pushing forward to destroy them while they are trying to achieve as much as possible with that asset," a senior IDF offcier said Saturday night. The officer said there have been numerous attempts to abduct soldiers using those tunnels.
As for identifying the tunnels, the officer said, "They are being taken care of. Hamas will be stripped of their ability to carry out attacks using the tunnels. It is a strategic asset for them. They feel we uncovered something significant and want to make the most of them. The ones that are ready -- are ready. They are frustrated about the tunnels. They want to exact a price [on us] with them. You can see it throughout the battlefield," he said.
On Saturday, 13 terrorists who were arrested were brought to questioning and the IDF said they provided viable intelligence. Since the beginning of the ground operation, the IDF has struck 500 targets from the air, sea and land.
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