bombed bridge gaza298.
(photo credit: AP)
In the IDF's first major ground incursion into Gaza since disengagement some 10 months ago, Battalion 13 of the Golani Brigade invaded southern Gaza around midnight Tuesday with the goal of preventing Shalit's kidnappers from smuggling him across the border into Egypt. Fighter planes carried out missile strikes throughout the day on open areas in southern Gaza as part of a larger effort to deter the kidnappers from trying to move their captive.
"Shalit is in Gaza," OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Gallant confirmed on Wednesday. He refused, however, to comment on exactly what information the IDF had concerning his whereabouts.
In addition to added pressure on Hamas, which was behind Shalit's kidnapping, an LINK HEREimminent incursion into northern Gaza was also meant to target the terrorists behind the firing of Kassams.
"The Hamas government is a government of terror, which has set for itself an agenda to destroy Israel and to kidnap soldiers," Gallant said. "Our operation will focus on destroying terror infrastructure and preventing the transfer of Shalit out of Gaza."
Alongside the military operation, Gallant said diplomatic efforts were still under way and that Israel viewed positively all foreign diplomatic efforts to help retrieve Shalit. Peretz spoke with Egyptian officials Wednesday night and urged them to intervene in talks with the Palestinians.
Troops took control of the long-abandoned airport in Dahaniyeh, a key site because of its elevation and view of Rafah and surrounding areas to the west.
IAF-fired missiles hit two empty Hamas training camps and a Kassam manufacturing facility. Fighters flew low over Gaza, rocking it with sonic booms and shattering windows. IDF artillery fire was also reactivated for the first time since Peretz suspended it three weeks ago after seven civilians were killed in an explosion, not caused by Israel, on a Gaza beach.
The operation began shortly before midnight Tuesday, when the IAF blew up three main bridges along the main route connecting the northern and southern parts of the Strip. The objective was to make movement more difficult for Shalit's kidnappers.
The air force also struck an electrical transformer station south of Gaza City, cutting the power supply to large portions of Gaza. Palestinian sources said the IAF fired at least nine missiles at the electric station. A large fire erupted, burning turbines and fuel supplies.
No casualties were reported in the incursion into southern Gaza. The area's normally bustling streets were eerily deserted, with people taking refuge inside their homes. Dozens of people living near the airport fled to nearby Rafah.