One day after Israeli troops began their ground invasion of the Gaza strip, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that the operation was only just getting started, saying Friday that Israel was to “prepare for the possibility of significantly widening the ground operation." According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 27 Palestinians were killed overnight, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to at least 271 since Israel’s Operation Protective Edge started 11 days ago.
One Israeli soldier was also killed Thursday night, in an incident that the IDF says is likely due to friendly fire, bringing the Israeli death toll to two. Israel has also called up 18,000 more reservists to add to the 30,000 already mobilized.
According to local reports, there has been a significant upsurge in the number of military vehicles and equipment arriving east of Gaza City Friday night. This includes bulldozers, presumably to help make way for more military vehicles and tanks to enter the strip.
Eleven Palestinians — four of whom were members of the Radwan family — were killed in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis in shelling overnight, according to medical officials in the city.
"The tanks were firing all night," Dr. Aymon Farah, director of the emergency department at al-Nasar Hospital in Khan Younis, told VICE News. "No ambulances could get into the area until around 7am. Since then, we've received 11 fatalities, 20 injuries, and 30 of asphyxiation due to gas." All of the injuries and fatalities came from the Qarara neighborhood of Khan Younis, which abuts Gaza's "Buffer Zone" with Israel. Residents reported that Israeli tanks entered the buffer zone and began firing into the Qarara neighborhood at about 4am.
Farah told VICE News that since the beginning of Israel's Operation Defensive Edge, his hospital has received 300 injuries and 60 fatalities, 20 of whom were children.
Three kids from the Abu Musalam family were killed when Israeli strikes hit their bedrooms in the housing bloc of Al Nada, near the Eretz crossing to Israel. Also among those killed early Friday was a 5-month-old baby in southern Rafah, according to Palestinian medics.
Israeli bombing destroyed the al-Wafa hospital in Gaza Thursday night; staff was trying to evacuate patients in the midst of shelling. Several nurses and patients had been injured, according to the director of the hospital. Much of the hospital caught on fire.
Israel also began shelling the Beit Hanoun hospital on Friday, targeting the top floors with a drone missile and damaging the building and its water supplies. There were also several injuries, the hospital director told AFP.
Israel has been striking much of Gaza's already-fragile infrastructure, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents without access to water, according to the International Red Cross. "Water and electrical services are also affected as a result of the current hostilities. If they do not stop, the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis," a Red Cross spokesperson said.
Netanyahu said today that the main purpose of the ground invasion was to destroy the tunnels Hamas has dug underneath the Israel border, many of which are used for smuggling. He added that an aerial bombardment was not sufficient to fully address the threat that the tunnels posed. The invasion comes after 10 days of Israeli airstrikes and bombing from both the sea and air, in an attempt to target Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip and has launched hundreds of rockets over the border and into Israel in recent weeks.
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928
Additional reporting by Dylan Collins. Follow him on Twitter: @collinsdyl