By Esat Firat and Turgut Alp Boyraz
Using tanks, warplanes, and artillery fire, on Friday the Israeli army launched a major attack on the Gaza Strip, allegedly in response to gunfire towards its soldiers along the border, according to Israeli sources.
Israeli war jets are hovering over Gaza, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, but did not give any end date for the offensive.
A written Israeli army statement said the army launched a large-scale assault targeting military points allegedly belonging to Hamas.
Stressing that the army is on high alert, the statement said: “Hamas chooses to escalate tension and will bear the consequences of these actions.”
According to the Israeli media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at army headquarters in Tel Aviv to review the situation in Gaza. No statements have been issued by Netanyahu or the army.
Palestine’s Health Ministry reported earlier that four Palestinians were killed Friday by Israeli forces in two separate incidents near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.
Since the current round of demonstrations began on March 30, more than 140 Palestinian protesters have been martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli army gunfire.
Protesters are demanding the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.