ISRAEL INTENSIFIES GAZA GROUND ASSAULT

Washington Times on July 20, 2014, reported that Israeli forces escalated their ground operations in Gaza City… Excerpts below:

The Israeli military reported that 13 soldiers were killed early Sunday, and Palestinian authorities reported that at least 65 Palestinians were killed as air and tank fire pummeled the city for hours. More than 420 Palestinians, as well as at least 20 Israelis, have been killed since fighting began July 8.

July 20 marked the third day of a stepped-up ground offensive from Israel after it has tried to dismantle Hamas rocket launchers and ground tunnels into Israel with airstrikes for the past 10 days.

Much of the fighting took place in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israeli officials have blamed for some 8 percent of the roughly 1,700 rockets fired at Israel since the latest round of fighting began.

Palestinian authorities reported that some 35,000 people were forced to flee from the latest round of fighting, with dozens of homes destroyed.

President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 20 by phone about the ongoing conflict — their second call in the last three days, the White House said.

Mr. Obama reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas, reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself…

Mr. Netanyahu blamed Hamas for all the civilian casualties on both sides and has said the strikes are only targeting Hamas militants.

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. It’s gruesome,” Mr. Netanyahu said on CNN. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. [Their aim is] the more dead, the better.”

Mr. Netanyahu said if the hostilities end and parties agree to a sustainable cease-fire, a discussion can begin on the demilitarization of Gaza.

“Gaza, under all the previous agreements, should have been demilitarized,” he said. “Instead of being demilitarized, it became basically an Iranian-financed and -equipped fortress of terror, with thousands and thousands of rockets and other weapons being smuggled and developed in it. That has to stop. Those tunnels have to be shut down.”

The military wing of Hamas…claimed it captured an Israeli soldier during fighting early on July 20, a claim that was not immediately confirmed by the Israeli military.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, says Israel has the right to do everything in its power to protect its interests, and that there have been comparatively fewer Israeli casualties because of its state-of-the-art Iron Dome defense system.

“But if left up to Hamas, thousands of Israelis would be dead,” Mr. Graham said on “Meet the Press.” “I hope the international community will not find a moral equivalence here. To the Israeli government: Do whatever is necessary to protect your people. Stay as long as you need

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