Sunday, January 11, 2009

The IDF launches its deepest ground incursions into Gaza City since OCL began, conducting a 2-front assault from the north and the south; troops pull back to the outskirts of Gaza City by nightfall. To accommodate expanded operations, the IDF commits its first significant influx of reservists into Gaza, numbering in the 1,000s, using them to hold IDF positions, freeing up regular combat troops to thrust deeper into Gaza City.

Combat notes: The intensified IDF assault on Gaza City begins before dawn, with tanks and troops based in the fmr. Netzarim settlement advancing fr. the southwest, supported by helicopter gunships and F16s, resulting in some of the heaviest fighting since OCL began, especially in Shaykh Ajlin. Simultaneously, the IDF steps up attacks on the northern outskirts of the city. The IDF reports (IDF 1/11) finding 10s of booby-trapped houses, buildings, and tunnels, accusing Hamas of booby-trapping 30 homes in one neighborhood (location not given). Ground forces also move into Khuza in s. Gaza under heavy artillery fire, bulldozing several homes and razing tracts of agricultural land before withdrawing late in the evening.

The IDF reports hitting nearly 70 targets across Gaza today and making more than 40 air strikes. Targets hit include 23 smuggling tunnels (including 2 located under the homes of Hamas mbrs.), at least 15 “armed cells,” 11 suspected weapons depots, several rocket-launching sites. Air strike target areas include Bani Suhayla, Bayt Hanun, Bayt Lahiya, Gaza City (Shaykh Ridwan), Khan Yunis, al-Maghazi, al-Mughraqa, Nussayrat, Rafah, al-Shabura r.c., Yibna r.c., al-Zawayda (c. Gaza). Heavy tank and artillery fire is reported in Bayt Hanun (white phosphorus use confirmed by Amnesty International), Gaza City (al-Shuja‘iyya, Tal al-Hawa, al-Zaytun), Jabaliya, Khuza, Khan Yunis (possibly involving white phosphorous).

Palestinians fire 20 rockets and 8 mortars into Israel, including at least 1 Grad that hits an empty kindergarten in Ashdod (damage but no injuries) and 2 rockets that hit Beersheba (some light injuries). The IDF reports sustaining no casualties but killing around 45 armed Palestinians, bringing the estimated Palestinian toll to at least 876 dead, 3,600 wounded.

Humanitarian notes: The IDF observes the daily 3-hr. humanitarian lull but does not release figures on the number of trucks permitted entry.

Of note: Today’s IDF air strikes on tunnels along the Rafah border damage 10 homes in Egyptian Rafah, seriously wound 2 Egyptian border policemen and lightly wound 1 border policeman, 2 Egyptian children (ages 2 and 5). Egyptian security officials say that the Israeli drones and planes have violated Egyptian air space daily since OCL began and that previous Israeli air strikes during OCL have damaged buildings and 1 mosque, shattered windows, and caused power shortages inside Egypt. (AFP, HA, IDF, WP 1/11; IDF, MM, NYT, WP, WT 1/12; WT 1/13; PCHR 1/15; ITIC 1/19; MM, QA 1/22)

The IDF conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Bayt Umar and Sa’ir, both nr. Hebron. (PCHR 1/15)