The Israel Defense Forces deployed thousands of ground troops into Gaza City late Thursday to hunt for and destroy Hamas-made tunnels that it said the Palestinian militant group uses to sneak into the Mideast state, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
William Booth, Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash quoted IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner as saying the infantry and artillery units had air and naval support, and that there are plans to activate additional reserve troops to beef up the 50,000 reservists already on call.
The operation, which includes a demolition crew of armored bulldozers and combat engineers, followed failed diplomatic missions to negotiate a long-lasting truce agreeable to both sides.
“We have hit Hamas hard and we will continue to hit Hamas hard,” the IDF tweeted shortly after launching the ground incursion, which came after a short five-hour ceasefire earlier in the day, the 10th day of an ongoing conflict with the militants.
The report said Hamas has condemned the assault, which spokesman Fawzi Barhom called a “dangerous step” for Israel to take.
“The occupation forces will pay a high price, and Hamas is ready for this confrontation,” he added.