JERUSALEM: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew the majority of its ground forces from the Gaza Strip throughout Saturday and Sunday, as Operation Protective Edge reached day 27, Israeli media reported.
Over the weekend, the Israeli security cabinet decided that Israel will not strive to reach a ceasefire with Hamas and decided not to send an Israeli delegation to official talks in Cairo.
Instead, Israel is considering to withdraw unilaterally from the Strip and set up a “temporary security strip” where soldiers will remain after the fighting officially terminates.
The order was made in order to “minimize friction” between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants in the Strip and let the soldiers rest in gathering areas located at the entrance to the Strip, the Ynet news website reported. Israeli media outlets reported it appears the ground incursion will end in the upcoming week.
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation is still ongoing in “full strength” and added that after the operation to destroy underground tunnels in the Strip is over, Israel will keep acting to secure Israeli communities. “All options are on the table to restore security,” he said at a Tel Aviv press conference.
Since midnight, the Israeli Air Force struck 15 targets in the Gaza Strip after a relative decrease in the number of rockets launched from the strip toward communities in Israel. One soldier was moderately wounded on Sunday noon in a clash with militants.
The IDF soldiers continued to operate in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. Palestinian sources reported that dozens were killed in the IDF’s operation. Israel had also allowed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, as the UN warned of a health disaster in the strip.
Operation Protective Edge, which Israel embarked on July 8 in order to curb rocket fire from the strip, has been the deadliest since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 1,700 Palestinians have died, mostly civilians (including 400 children). Nearly 9,000 people were wounded and approximately 460,000 Palestinians have been displaced.
The Israeli Air Force struck more than 4,000 targets in the Gaza Strip, according to the IDF Spokesperson Unit. Israel expanded its campaign and commenced a ground incursion on July 17. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers were killed since the incursion began.
Three Israeli civilians died from rocket and mortar attacks, as militants in Gaza fired more than 3,000 rockets at communities throughout Israel in the past four weeks. PNA