Israel carries out airstrikes in Gaza as ground troops battle militants

The aerial bombardment came as Israeli troops pressed ahead with ground assaults in the Rafah area of southern Gaza and the Netzarim corridor cutting through the central part of the coastal enclave.

Israeli fighter jets and aircraft carried out a massive wave of airstrikes against Palestinian militant targets across the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, the military said Monday, as ground forces continued operations in the territory’s south and centre.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the airstrikes hit around 30 targets belonging to terror groups in Gaza, including buildings used by militants, rocket launchers, tunnel shafts, and other infrastructure. Strikes were also conducted against cells of armed terror operatives, the IDF stated.

The aerial bombardment came as Israeli troops pressed ahead with ground assaults in the Rafah area of southern Gaza and the Netzarim corridor cutting through the central part of the coastal enclave. Heavy fighting has raged in these locations in recent days.

In Rafah, the IDF said its Givati Brigade killed several gunmen during close-quarters combat. The Nahal Brigade located and destroyed several booby-trapped buildings, while the 401st Armored Brigade killed additional terror operatives and uncovered weapons caches.

Palestinian officials have accused Israel of causing widespread destruction and civilian casualties during the incursions, which Israel says are aimed at degrading militant capabilities and destroying cross-border tunnels used to stage attacks.

Israel has repeatedly stated it makes every effort to avoid civilian harm and accuses Palestinian groups of operating within urban areas and using civilians as human shields.

The latest escalation followed last week’s launching of an Israeli military operation codenamed “Breaking Dawn” to confront what it called an imminent threat from the Islamic Jihad militant group, which has fired hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory in recent days.

After several days of Israeli strikes that killed several Islamic Jihad commanders and fighters, a shaky ceasefire brokered by Egypt took effect on Sunday night. However, it quickly unravelled amid recriminations from both sides, with militant groups firing rockets and the Israeli military striking back with fresh airstrikes and its first ground incursion into Gaza in nearly a decade.

As diplomatic efforts to restore calm flounder, the spiralling violence has stoked fears of a full-scale Israeli reoccupation of the impoverished Gaza Strip, which it has blockaded since 2007 after Hamas took power in the territory. Ensuring the safety of its citizens from rocket barrages remains Israel’s stated priority in the latest flare-up.