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Israeli bulldozers destroy Hamas tunnels in Gaza


By IBRAHIM BARZAK and IAN DEITCH

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israel said it widened its ground offensive early Sunday, sending more troops into Gaza after demolishing more than a dozen Hamas tunnels and intensifying tank fire on border areas.

Loud explosions shook Gaza as Israeli flares lit up the night sky and Israeli fighter jets flew low across the densely populated territory.

Since the start of Israel-Hamas fighting almost two weeks ago, 348 Palestinians were killed and 2,700 wounded in Israeli air and artillery strikes, according to Palestinian health officials. One-fourth of the deaths were reported since the start of the ground offensive late Thursday, the officials said.

Five Israelis - three soldiers and two civilians - have also been killed and dozens wounded as rockets continue to rain down on Israel.

As fighting raged, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon headed to Qatar on Sunday as part of renewed cease-fire efforts. Hamas last week rejected an Egyptian call to both sides to halt hostilities, saying it first wants guarantees that Israel and Egypt will significantly ease their border blockade of Gaza.

Israel's military said early Sunday that it has widened its ground offensive by sending more troops into Gaza. Over the weekend, Israeli troops demolished more than a dozen tunnels that were used by Hamas to sneak into Israel and carry out attacks on soldiers and civilians, the army said.

Israel Expands Gaza Ground Offensive; No Sign of Truce

Israeli soldiers uncovered 34 shafts leading into about a dozen underground tunnels, some as deep as 30 meters (yards), the military said. Israel views the tunnels as a strategic threat, and demolishing them is a high priority in their campaign.

Footage released by the Israeli military showed tunnels being demolished by army excavators and other equipment on the ground and by airstrikes from above.

Palestinian gunmen disguised in Israeli uniforms managed to infiltrate Israel from Gaza using another tunnel and on Saturday killed two Israeli soldiers and injured several others, the military said. At least one Palestinian was killed in the clash.

Hamas said 12 of its fighters participated in the attack and that the group took some of the soldiers' weapons back to their hideouts.

In two other confrontations, Palestinian gunmen jumped out of tunnels and shot at soldiers who returned fire. Two of the gunmen were killed. Another militant died when the explosive vest he was wearing went off, the military said.

In one instance, the militants were found with tranquilizers and handcuffs, indicating they "intended to abduct Israelis," according to the military.

Clashes persisted into late Saturday. Palestinians reported heavy Israeli tank fire on the border areas of Gaza. Doctors said a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter of senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya were killed early Sunday when their house was hit by a tank shell in Gaza City. In the southern city of Rafah, three brothers were killed when an airstrike targeted the family house, said health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

In Israel, a Gaza rocket killed a man near the southern city of Dimona and wounded four people, police said, marking the second Israeli civilian casualty from the fighting.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Saturday repeated an appeal for the two sides to adopt the cease-fire, saying Egypt's plan is the only one on the table, despite efforts from Hamas backers Turkey and Qatar to broker a deal.

"It meets the needs of both sides," he said. "We will continue to propose it. We hope both sides accept it."

Hamas has sought involvement of other countries, such as Qatar, in any cease-fire negotiations, saying Egypt cannot be the sole mediator. The Islamic militant group is deeply distrustful of Egypt's rulers who last year deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo.

With truce talks stalled, violence has escalated.

Casualties could mount quickly if the military moves deeper into urban areas.

Some 50,000 Palestinians are already staying in United Nations shelters, according to UNRWA, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians.

Electricity and water supplies in Gaza were increasingly being disrupted. The Gaza City municipality said a main water line was damaged in the fighting, leaving parts of the city without water. Gaza has suffered from rolling blackouts for years, but periods without electricity have now increased to up to 20 hours at a time.

Meanwhile, Egypt opened its border crossing with Gaza, admitting wounded to Egyptian hospitals and allowing aid and doctors back in.

Israel says it is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and blames them on Hamas, accusing it of firing from within residential neighborhoods and using civilians as "human shields."

Human rights activists say past confrontations have shown that when Israeli carries out attacks in densely populated Palestinian areas, civilian deaths are inevitable.

The military said it has hit more than 2,500 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers, during the 12 days of fighting. It said that some 70 militants were killed and another 13 brought to Israel for questioning.

Gaza militants have fired more than 1,760 rockets at Israeli cities since July 8, the military said.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has survived Israeli offensives in the past, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, including long-range projectiles, and has built a system of underground bunkers.

But Hamas is weaker than it was during the previous two offensives, with little international or even regional support from its main allies, Turkey and Qatar.

___

Deitch reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Gaza City, Aron Heller in Tel Aviv, Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Lefteris Pitarakis in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
lets.play.wheres.waldo.obama July 20 2014 at 7:18 AM

I hope
Hamas decides to keep fighting
until every last one of them is dead.!
--- They are self-destructing ---
Remember what
Napoleon Bonaparte said:
"Never Interfere With an Enemy
While He is in the
Process of Destroying Himself"...

Flag Reply +85 rate up
14 replies
kiick23 July 20 2014 at 7:18 AM

Only dispicable and demonic forces hide their artillery in hospitals, UN schools, ambulances and civilain homes knowing those areas will be targeted and rightfully targeted by the nation they are waging a war against. Those who support this demonic cult are equally disgusting and reprehensible.

Flag Reply +66 rate up
8 replies
hrdbal51 July 20 2014 at 7:54 AM

Israelis....don't stop until Hamas is extinct. Hamas are barbarians.

Flag Reply +49 rate up
5 replies
Frank S. Pedigo July 20 2014 at 7:16 AM

You know i could feel sorry for the people of Gaza but it is their own fault . If they would stop protecting those in Hamas who are firing missles into Israel maybe things would be better for them . I know that Israel hasn`t the best track record when i comes to treating the Palestinians fairly but also they let themselves be used as human shields . In fact if you think about it most Muslims dont us their heads . Look at Afghanistan the Taliban kill their own people but they are protected by the same people they kill .

Flag Reply +44 rate up
4 replies
aristars July 20 2014 at 7:44 AM

Hamas was busy building tunnels, collecting rockets,weapons; instead of buildng factories,creating prosperty in Gaza? far beyond stupidty! those people have lost all their senses, they just keep bringing destruction and death to the Palestinians!Israel and Egypt have kept the blocade because of Hamas' actions, agenda!!just finish them once and for all as an essential step towards peace!

Flag Reply +37 rate up
10 replies
hwlndrbrt July 20 2014 at 8:06 AM

God is with you Israel! Look to Him and concentrate on the enemy. Hamas has Allah, a false god, who can't change the course of history. But your God, Oh, Israel, has been with you for years and continues to protect His promised land! Long Live Israel!!!

Flag Reply +37 rate up
18 replies
hushai2048 July 20 2014 at 9:00 AM

O Journalism! O Journalism!

"...Human rights activists say past confrontations have shown that when Israeli carries out attacks in densely populated Palestinian areas, civilian deaths are inevitable." DUH-H-H

Should read: "...Etc. Past confrontations have shown that when Israelis are fired upon from densely populated Palestinian areas, civilian deaths are inevitable."

Fire the AP editors...

Flag Reply +31 rate up
2 replies
herbertwschulz hushai2048 July 20 2014 at 10:59 AM

WHO TF gives a **** about AP; the terrorists?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ladiesnite hushai2048 July 20 2014 at 12:26 PM

LOVE THIS----BUT NOT IN LEFTS CORNER !!!! The TRUTH NEVER COMES OUT AND MAY NEVER HAPPEN. We will only know next President election. 1. WHO WILL OWN THE MEDIA OUTLETS and 2. WHO WILL OWN THE THE MEDIA OUTLETS CEO'S ????????? FOLLOW THE MONEY !!!! THE MONEY THATS MISSING IN OUR GOVERNMENT.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
crarob July 20 2014 at 7:07 AM

"Human rights groups", you know, those groups that support the Arab violence against Israel, are concerned about the Palestinians that are behind all this.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
4 replies
hombresbad July 20 2014 at 8:12 AM

Israel it's doing the right thing defending and protecting his country and citizens. NATO, UN, EU, UK, Canada, US ( France & Germany Russian's puppets ), should take immediate military action by helping on protecting their allies, their friends, including Israel...sending troops, weapons, and punish Putin's for his participation of the Malaysia's jet brought down by Russian's terrorist. All those terrorist must be killed, exterminated soon, quickly to end this aggression against Ukraine's citizens, army and country in general. World powers must understand that is the moment to take actions against Russia, rebels....and to avoid another plane being shoot down just like Malaysia's. Russia government are removing and covering up all evidence that proof Russia's direct involvement on this terrorist act. The West, N, NATO and allies must demand that France,,,,stop delivery of the Mistral Warships to Russia, and they must remove Russia from G-20 meeting immediately!!

Flag Reply +21 rate up
8 replies
Gloria July 20 2014 at 6:55 AM

Makes you wonder if other tunnels are being constructed form other bordering countries. There used to be a ton of tunnels in Lebanon.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
6 replies
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