Israeli cabinet to summon 40,000 reservists for Gaza conflict

Jerusalem : Israel’s security cabinet decided Tuesday to draft 40,000 reserve soldiers for a major military operation Israel launched on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip earlier in the day.

An Israeli official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that most of the summoned reservists would take over active units which will make their way to the Gaza Strip border in southern Israel, Xinhua reported. The reservists will be summoned as soon as possible, he added.

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Israel expanded its air strikes campaign against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip enclave following incessant rocket fire from the strip towards communities in southern Israel and expanding the line of fire to cities like Be’er Sehva, Ashdod and Ashkelon in southern Israel.

Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to “take their gloves off” against Hamas, adding that Hamas was the one which “chose to escalate the situation”.

An Israeli official told the Walla! news website that a ground operation was a possibility discussed in the cabinet decision.

“The operation is currently an evolving one, with the main objective of striking down Hamas’s missile launching infrastructure. Yet the operation can expand into a ground operation in accordance with the developments,” he told the website.

Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon told reporters in Tel Aviv that the air campaigns will not end within the coming days and that Hamas was aiming to exact a “heavy price” from Israel’s Home Front, alluding to possible rocket fire aimed at central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Operation Protective Edge began early Tuesday morning, with the Israeli Air Force striking more than 50 targets in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip enclave overnight and more than 40 targets were struck as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Palestinians reported that at least four people died, among them a Hamas naval commander, and at least 25 were wounded.

The IDF spokesperson said in a conference call Tuesday morning that the army’s goals in the operation were to strike down Hamas’s infrastructure and stop it from launching missiles into southern Israel.

More than 100 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip to communities in southern Israel, including major cities like Be’er Sheva, since Monday night.

The Home Front declared a “special situation” in towns located in a 40-km range within the Gaza Strip. The Iron Dome anti-missile battery intercepted over five missiles heading towards the cities of Beer Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.

The operation takes place nearly two years after Operation Pillar of Defence, which took place in November 2012 and included missiles launched throughout Israel and heavy air strikes in Gaza.