The Wall Street Journal: Gaza battles take heavy death toll
By Joshua Mitnick, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Nicholas Casey
A Palestinian man runs with a white flag in a section of Gaza City that was shelled by Israel during fighting Sunday.
Israel pushed an expanded ground offensive into Gaza on Sunday, attacking what it said was a vast network of tunnels beneath a densely populated urban neighborhood but meeting heavy shelling from Hamas in battles that left 13 Israeli soldiers and dozens of Palestinians dead.
Officials in Gaza said at least 87 Palestinians were killed late Saturday and early Sunday, about 60 of them in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaiyeh where Israel launched the predawn assault on the tunnels.
The attack set off a panicked exodus of Palestinian civilians who rushed through the streets, some barefoot, past corpses.
Israel has said the ground invasion launched Thursday night is aimed in part at destroy Hamas’s rocket arsenal and a tunnel network that could be used to infiltrate Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking before the army announced the full Israeli death toll, said the attacks on Gaza would continue until Israel stopped rocket fire and destroyed “terror tunnels” maintained by Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the narrow seaside territory.
“We’ll stop our operations when we can bring back quiet to our people,” he said in an interview with CNN.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said the army entered Shajaiyeh, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City, with an expanded force of infantry, artillery and armored units. He said the army had expected strong resistance.
The Israelis came under fire from antitank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades launched from populous neighborhoods, Lerner said, describing it as “heavy fighting and close combat.”
“Our assessment and plan of action suggested they were planning to meet the army on the battlefield,” he said. “We are taking the battle to them. We don’t want it in our backyard.”
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com