Israeli forces strike Hamas underground tunnel network in Gaza
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The Israeli Air Force bombed Hamas’s underground tunnel network late Thursday night in the northern Gaza Strip in what military officials said was one of the most aggressive aerial assaults in recent years.
On Friday morning, the IAF intercepted another drone that crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel, after the Iron Dome missile defense system had downed one the day before.
Earlier in the day as well, IDF fighter jets and aircraft attacked a number of underground Hamas facilities in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as an aircraft launcher station aimed at the center of the country, and a number of observation posts in the north and center of the Gaza Strip.
Rockets continued to pound Israel as the Israel military pummeled Gaza in one of the largest bombardments of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad since the fighting started.
In a 40-minute long air campaign which began around midnight, some 160 aircraft dropped over 450 missiles on 150 targets belonging to a network of tunnels dug by the terror group known as the Metro under Gaza city.
Speaking to reporters, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman called the underground network a strategic asset to the group that used the kilometers of tunnels in northern Gaza to move weapons and fighters.
The military, he said, was still working to determine the extent of the damage.
Israeli tanks, artillery cannons and troops from the Golani brigade stationed along the border also carried out barrages towards Hamas targets when they came out to attack Israeli targets. A total of some 500 artillery shells and another 50 tank shells were used.
No troops crossed into Gaza, rather they stayed on the Israeli side, Zilberman said, clarifying earlier claims made by the IDF to foreign media.
The IDF also bombed Hamas weapons depots along with other weapons and launching sites. A senior Islamic Jihad anti-tank guided missile commander was also killed, the IDF said, and the Iron Dome downed another drone.
During the strikes the military ordered anyone living within four kilometers of the Gaza border to remain in a bomb shelter out of concern that Hamas might fire short range missiles or anti-tank guided missiles during the bombardment overnight. Five and half hours later the IDF removed the order, and said that people should stay in close proximity to a shelter should an attack happen.
The bombardment by the IDF is aimed, Zilberman said, at pressuring Hamas.
Heavy rocket fire towards southern Israel overnight continued and claimed the life of an 87 year-old woman after she suffered head injuries while running to shelter. Another man in his 50s was seriously injured after his home suffered a direct hit by a rocket in the city of Ashkelon. A home in the Eshkol Regional Council was also destroyed after it was hit by a rocket early on Thursday evening.
The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that 115 Palestinians have died since the fighting began and another 600 have been injured. Israel maintains that the large majority of those who have been killed are either members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad or were killed by Hamas rocket fire that landed inside the enclave.
Some 2,000 rockets and mortars have been fired towards Israel from the Gaza Strip since the fighting began. An additional 220 projectiles fired Thursday night and Friday morning, of which 30 landed in the Hamas-run territory.