Israel Readies Ground Troops for Gaza Operation: 75,000 Reservists Called Up, Hamas has 36 Hours To Cease Rocket Attacks
Israel’s military stepped up its mobilizations for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on Friday after Palestinian rockets struck near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as neighboring Egypt escalated its own war of words against Israel.
Late Friday, Israel’s cabinet approved the call-up of 75,000 Israeli reservists, more than doubling the number authorized the previous day. Heavy armor and soldiers from two elite brigades continued to mass at staging grounds on the Gaza border. A decision to launch a ground invasion could come within 24 to 36 hours if rocket fire continues, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told CNN on Friday.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil made a historic visit to the Gaza Strip amid the biggest flare-up of violence in years between Israel and Hamas, underscoring the acute dilemma Egypt’s new Islamist government faces. Matt Bradley has details from the Gaza Strip on The News Hub. Photo: Getty Images.
Israel began mobilizing thousands of troops Thursday, extending its aerial and artillery attacks on the Gaza Strip early Friday, while Palestinian militants mounted their deepest-ever missile strikes into the heart of Israel. Photo: REUTERS.
Conflict in Gaza Strip, Israel
European Pressphoto Agency
Smoke rises from a Hamas site after an Israeli airstrike in the center of Gaza City on Friday.
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“They don’t call up all these reserves to keep people standing in the stands watching,” said a senior Israeli military official. “After rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it’s pretty hard not to” order a ground invasion.
For three hours on Friday, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil visited the Gaza Strip and stood hand-in-hand with leaders of Hamas, the militant and political group that rules Gaza. Coming after two days of Israeli strikes there, it was a bold show of support for Hamas from Cairo as well as a diplomatic gambit to gain a break in the fighting.
Israel had pledged to hold its fire during Mr. Qandil’s three-hour visit. But rockets from the Palestinian territory could be heard taking off toward Israel, even as the Egyptian premier spoke to reporters.