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Israeli military escalates campaign against Hamas in Gaza Strip, reports say

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
Posted at 3:50 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 23:34:38-04

JERUSALEM — Israel Defense Forces increased their attack on the Gaza Strip late Thursday night. In a tweet sent by the agency, "air and ground troops" attacked the Gaza Strip around midnight local time. However, multiple outlets are reporting no ground troops went inside Gaza.

It has been confirmed Gaza came under heavy artillery fire late Thursday into Friday morning, CNN reports there were dozens of airstrikes as well.

If ground troops are used, it would be the first time in the multiple days of violence which has seen mostly air attacks and local protests.

Earlier in the day Thursday, Israel had said it was massing troops along the Gaza frontier and called up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-ruled territory. There have been rocket fire and airstrikes on both sides for most of the day.

Egyptian mediators and representatives from other countries had rushed to Israel to effort a cease-fire, but there does not appear to be any progress.

Thursday's attacks came after violence between the two sides erupted for a fourth night. Jewish and Arab mobs violently clashed in the town of Lod. Fighting continued despite increased police presence and curfews; about 400 people were arrested late Wednesday night in riots throughout Israel, according to police.

The four days of violence is the most intense fighting Israel has ever had with Hamas, and is the worst Jewish-Arab violence in Israel in decades.

While visiting a rocket defense battery this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops to be prepared for an extended battle against Hamas.

“It will take more time, but ... we will achieve our goal — to restore peace to the state of Israel,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The fighting started Monday when Hamas, claiming to be defending Jerusalem, fired a barrage of long-range rockets toward the city in response to what it said were provocations from Israel. Israel then responded with a series of airstrikes.

Gaza's Health Ministry reports 103 Palestinians had been killed as of noon on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. Israel reports seven people have been killed.

The Hamas militant group governs Gaza.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made clear he places more blame on Hamas, saying there is a “fundamental difference between a terrorist organization in Hamas that is indiscriminately targeting civilians and Israel, which is defending itself.”

This current increase in violence was triggered following clashes earlier this month in Jerusalem among Palestinians, Israeli police and right-wing Jews, according to the Washington Post.

Tensions have been high since mid-April, partly because of efforts by Israeli settlers to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem after legal disputes.

The airstrikes on both sides have stopped transportation in both Israel and Gaza; Israel's Ben Gurion Airport has closed indefinitely to incoming flights, and a second airport was reportedly struck by rockets.

In Gaza, damage to power lines and infrastructure have cut electricity to many areas.

The United Nation's Security Council is planning to hold an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the increasing violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

More clashes are expected on Friday, when thousands of Muslims are expected to make their way to Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque.