The Israel Defense Forces are currently operating on the ground in several areas throughout the Gaza Strip, from north to south, a senior IDF office said on Friday morning.
After entering the strip at a number of points along the border on Thursday night, infantry and armored forces made their way to predetermined points in agricultural areas of the strip.
By morning they were on the outskirts of populated areas.
The immediate objective of the operation was for the forces to establish themselves in commanding positions, from which they could operate against tunnels running from the strip into Israel.
Several clashes were reported overnight between the IDF forces and Palestinian gunmen. The army expects the clashes to intensify at daybreak and during the course of Friday.
In addition to the ground operation, the Israel Air Force continues to strike at targets, particularly those in the north and center of the strip, which are the source of most of the rockets fired at Israel, according to the army.
Over 100 targets were hit overnight, including 20 rocket launchers and nine tunnels, according to IDF data.
The ground operation began at 10 P.M. on Thursday night, when thousands of IDF infantry troops and armored units entered the Gaza Strip at several points along its border. Videos of the night’s action distributed by the IDF spokesman show infantry and armor making their way through the agricultural land of the strip.
“The night operation went as planned, but the serious clashes are expected to begin at daybreak,” a senior IDF officer said. He described the incursion into the strip as “massive” and accompanied by artillery fire.
“At this stage, Hamas is taking cover, though explosive devices were detonated in some places and there was firing,” the officer said. “The opposition was light and the forces got to their destinations as planned. Hamas did not plan on the IDF entering in such strength.”
Before the ground incursion began, a senior officer in the GOC southern command said it would most likely be limited to a depth of three to four kilometers from the Israeli border, and would focus on locating and destroying tunnels. Such an operation, he said, could take between a week and two weeks.
On Thursday, the IDF received the cabinet's approval to expand the mobilization of up to 18,000 reserve soldiers, and the military commenced drafting thousands of reservists overnight. If the military does call up the full number approved, the total number of troop mobilized due to Operation Protective Edge will number over 70,000 troops.
A member of the IDF's joint chiefs said that in his opinion, "one can reach significant accomplishments using firepower, and our very presence there will bring about certain accomplishments. But the days of a binary, 0 or 1 victory are over, as even after a ceasefire agreement, the other side continues to shoot."