The deployment of battle tanks and the mobilising of thousands of reservists has further raised the prospects of an Israeli ground offensive on the Gaza Strip. According to reports, the reservists called back to active duty by Israel’s cabinet include combat troops as well as support units. The main topic of the weekly Israeli cabinet meeting was, unsurprisingly, its aerial offensive against Hama.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert explained that Israel’s aim is to stop Gazan Palestinians’ attacks on Israeli territory. He said: “The State of Israel yesterday started a military operation in the Gaza Strip in order to restore the normal lifestyle and quiet to the residents of the south who have been suffering many years of intensive shooting of rockets, mortars and terror activity.” The Gaza Strip’s Hamas leadership abandoned a ceasefire with Israel a week ago.
According to Israeli military sources, more than 150 Palestinian rockets and shells have bombarded southern Israel since Saturday. The latest Israeli town to be targeted was Ashekelon, some 20 kilometres from the Gazan border. Another town, Ashdod, nearly twice as far away, was also hit. No serious injuries were reported.