Defense Update News:

Israel Opens Land Campaign in Gaza

Israeli ground forces move into the Gaza Strip, seeking control of areas used for Rocket Launching by Palestinians

By evening, Israel expanded its Operation Cast Lead, expectedly launching the land campaign sending its land forces into the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, its the objective is to take control of some of rocket launching area used by the Hamas, in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians, in parallel, As a result, the IDF is seeking to destroy the terrorist infrastructure of the Hamas in the area of operation.

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Large numbers of forces are taking part in the operation, expected to span over days. The forces participating in this phase of the operation include infantry, armor, combat engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel navy, Israel Security Agency and other security agencies. The Commander of the operation is Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, commander of the Southern Command. The forces participating in the operation have been highly trained and were prepared for the mission over the long period that the operation was planned.

The attack followed continuous air and naval attacks conducted through the recent days. Since the early morning hours of Saturday, January 3rd, 2009 the IDF has attacked over 40 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, including a training camp, weaponry storage facility, smuggling tunnel, an armed launcher and launching bases. The Palestinians responded launching some 14 Qassam rockets and Grad missiles towards Israel, hitting an apartment building in the city of Ashdod, wounding two Israelis. A short time after the attack IAF aircraft identified and destroyed the launchers used in the attack.

IAF aircraft also struck the vehicle transporting senior Hamas commander Mohammed Ma'aruf and an additional Hamas operative in Khan Younis early Saturday afternoon. Ma'aruf was part of Hamas' military wing and served as an officer in the terror organization's ground forces.