In response to unceasing rocket and missile fire on civilian centers in Israel, on July 7, Israel launched a military operation, codenamed "Operation Protective Edge", targeting strategic Hamas facilities, tunnels, weapons and leadership. On July 17, following days of unceasing rocket fire, Israel expanded its military operation by sending IDF ground troops into Gaza in order to destroy Hamas’s infrastructure, including rocket storage sites and tunnels which cannot be destroyed by aerial attacks. Hamas smuggles rockets and other weapons into Gaza through its tunnels, and uses them to infiltrate Israel with the intention of killing and kidnapping civilians and soldiers.
The IDF aims to curtail Hamas’ ability to attack Israel – through rocket, missile, mortar attacks, and through an extensive network of underground tunnels, to ensure quiet and security for the Israeli population. The IDF announced that as of July 21, it has uncovered and destroyed 15 tunnels and over 45 tunnel shafts. Referring to the labyrinth of tunnels, Israeli military spokesmen speak of there being two Gazas – one above ground, and one below.
Since early July , over 1800 missiles, rockets and mortars have been fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza into Israeli cities and towns, including Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, and even as far north as Haifa, a distance of over 85 miles from Gaza. At least two Israelis have been killed by rocket or mortar fire, and a number have been injured, some quite seriously. There has also been extensive damage to homes and other structures.
The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted over 300 projectiles fired into Israel, including missiles fired at Ben Gurion International Airport. Two-thirds of Israel’s civilian population (equal to over 200 million Americans) – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – are now directly threatened by missiles from Gaza. In addition, Israeli security forces have stopped terrorists from infiltrating inside Israel from sea, over land and through underground tunnels. Several rockets have also been fired by terrorists from Lebanon, Syria and the Egyptian-controlled Sinai desert into Israel.
On July 15, the Israeli government voted to accept an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire, which was supported by the US, the Arab League and others in the international community. As a gesture to Hamas, Israel halted air-strikes in Gaza for a few hours. Hamas in turn rejected the terms of the ceasefire, and continued to bombard Israel with at least 50 rockets during that period. On July 17, at the request of the United Nations, a "humanitarian ceasefire" between Israel and Hamas went into effect for approximately 5 hours in order to enable Gazans to shop and resupply. While it was mostly quiet during the ceasefire, rocket fire from Gaza into Israel resumed almost immediately following the designated period. There are increasing calls by some world leaders, including President Obama for an immediate ceasefire.