Hours after Israel’s security cabinet voted Wednesday evening to intensify the army’s operation in the Gaza Strip, a military official confirmed that the IDF is set to call up an additional 16,000 reservists Thursday, bringing the total of soldiers called up to 86,000.
The military official said the recruitment was meant to give the army “some breathing room,” Ynet reported. “It will be decided [on Thursday] where they will be placed and under which commands,” the official added.
On Wednesday, the security cabinet instructed the IDF to continue “forcefully hitting Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza,” and to conclude its mission to destroy the tunnels leading from the Strip into Israel, a diplomatic source said.
The IDF began Operation Protective Edge on July 8 with the goal of halting rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns, and later moved on to destroying a network of tunnels, dug by members of the Islamist Hamas organization under the border into Israel, from which terrorists have launched lethal ambushes on Israeli forces.
Three IDF soldiers were killed and another 15 were injured Wednesday in a booby-trapped health clinic building in the Palestinian enclave, raising the army’s death toll to 56 since the operation began.
On Wednesday afternoon, the IDF’s Southern Command chief, Sami Turgeman, said “many hundreds” of Hamas operatives had been killed in the operation. Turgeman stated that the IDF had destroyed hundreds of weapons storage facilities, and significantly compromised Hamas’s infrastructure.
He said the IDF was “days away” from completing the military goal of destroying all of the tunnels, though the process is complex.
Turgeman added that the IDF had expanded its operation Tuesday night, targeting new sites in the north and center of the coastal enclave.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report