Although the cabinet meeting convened Thursday evening ended without an announcement on a ground offensive in Gaza, a senior IDF official says the military is massing forces on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip in preparation for such an operation.
So far, the Israeli offensive on terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip has been carried out from the air, with nearly 900 targets being hit so far in Operation Protective Edge, the official said Thursday night.
Among the targets were hundreds of launching pads in Gaza. Many mid-level and low-level Hamas and jihad operatives had been targeted as well, while senior leaders have gone underground, the official said.
He said many targets have been avoided due to collateral damage, adding that Hamas had been launching rockets from both inside and around mosques more than in the past.
Earlier Thursday, the IDF warned some 100,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of impending military action and called on them to leave their homes to avoid danger, but Hamas told them to stay put.
The IDF told Palestinian citizens in towns along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel to evacuate their homes quickly, ahead of military action in the area.
The areas included Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, Abasan al-Kabera, and Abasan al-Saghira in the northern Gaza Strip, east of Khan Yunis. Over 100,000 people are said to reside in these cities.
However, Hamas asked Gazan citizens not to heed the calls to leave.
The IDF sent out similar warnings during operations Pillar of Defense and Cast Lead, as well as during the 2006 Lebanon War, generally ahead of an airstrike of a particular area.
Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.