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Israel launches ground offensive in Gaza Strip

At least 20 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed in the active phase of Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip

TEL AVIV, July 18. /ITAR-TASS/. At least 20 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed in the active phase of Israel’s ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, the press service of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said on Friday. Several dozens of Palestinians and two Israeli servicemen were injured in the ground operation.

On July 17, Israel approved the drafting of 18,000 more reservists for an expansion of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, around 70,000 extra troops have been called up.

Overnight to Friday, around 40 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Air raid sirens were heard in the cities of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon, as well as in the settlements near the Gaza border. According to some reports, more than ten rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.

Israel hit more than 100 targets in the Gaza Strip over the last 12 hours after a brief ceasefire that ended on Thursday.


Deterioration of Israeli-Palestinian relations

Israeli-Palestinian relations grew sour after June 12, 2014, when three Jewish teenagers were abducted in the West Bank. Later the teenagers were found killed. Israel accused militants of the Palestinian militant Islamist group Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), which controls the Gaza Strip, of committing the crime.

The operation to search for the teenagers continued for more than two weeks and was accompanied by searches, arrests of Palestinian activists and shellings of the Palestinian territory.

On July 1, 2014, a 16-year-old resident of the East Jerusalem’s Palestinian Arab neighborhood of Shuafat was kidnapped and killed. Six ultra-right Jewish activists were arrested for the crime. The death of the Palestinian teenager caused riots among Palestinians.

On July 8, 2014, the Israel Defense Forces announced the start of the operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants. The IDF made strikes on 50 targets in the Gaza Strip, most of which were launching platforms for rockets. Five Palestinians were killed and some 20 were wounded.

The immediate reason for the operation was that cities in southern Israel were massively shelled by Hamas military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. According to the Israeli army’s press service, on July 7, some 90 missiles were fired on Israel from the Gaza Strip. As of early July, 450 missiles had been fired since the start of 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the IDF to prepare for a possible ground operation. Israel announced mobilization of 1,500 reservists and sent two army brigades to the border with Gaza.

Since the start of their activity on December 14, 1987, Hamas militants set a course for liberation of Israel-occupied Palestinian territories. The group has made a few dozen terrorist attacks against military and civilian facilities of Israel.

Hamas regularly shells Israel’s territory with homemade rockets. In response, Israel shells Gaza and holds military operations there to suppress militant activity and destroy Hamas’ military structure. According to Hamas, 1,365 Israelis died in 1987-2011 in terrorist attacks