Israel Army Radio reports that there have been IDF troop movements into northern Gaza and that air strikes have begun. The goal of Operation Summer Rain is to rescue Cpl. Shalit and uproot the terrorist infrastructure. Stay with Vital Perspective as this story develops.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 17:12: Reuters reports that an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a bridge in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday as troops prepared for a threatened offensive into the territory, Palestinian witnesses said. The bridge lies on one of the main roads linking the north and south of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian security sources said Israeli tanks were moving near the northern end of the Gaza Strip, but the army said they had not yet crossed the border.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 17:27: Ha'aretz reports that the air strike on the main bridge between Gaza City and Khan Yunis was destroyed in an effort to prevent the transport of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit within Gaza. A senior military intelligence officer said Tuesday that the IDF is working on the assumption that Cpl. Shalit is being held in southern Gaza.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 17:40: Earlier today, PM Olmert told the Knesset that "We are ready for a long and assertive operation. We will fight terror and we won't negotiate with the kidnappers."
UPDATE 06/27 @ 17:49: Via Fox News: Israeli military officials said Olmert approved a "limited operation" for southern Gaza, aimed at "terrorist infrastructure." Palestinian security forces said Israeli tanks were on the move near the Israeli village of Nahal Oz, a main Israeli staging area just outside Gaza, but they had not yet entered the territory.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 18:20: Hamas leaders holding Shalit hostage considered smuggling him into Egypt through tunnels in the Rafah area. However, Egypt has massed 2,500 additional troops along the Egypt - Gaza border due to fears that Hamas would attempt such a move (and to prevent Palestinians from flooding into the Sinai).
UPDATE 06/27 @ 18:45: AP reports that the Palestinian Authority says the IAF hit power stations in Gaza City, knocking out electricity. Fox News confirms on air.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 19:24: Here is the initial report from John Gibson at Fox News for historical reference.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 19:34: As per Mike Tobin in Gaza City, troops on the southern border of Gaza, not far from where the kidnapping took place, are now moving north into the area under the cover of night with the electricity having been knocked out and transportation routes destroyed.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 19:36: According to Israeli media, the IDF is calling this Operation Summer Rain.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 20:02: Unfortunately, some in the press are already praising Hamas as peace-makers in the same breath used to scold them for the kidnapping. The praise comes as a result of the Hamas-Fatah agreement today, which some have hailed as a "breakthrough." That's false. As the media sang their praise, Hamas leaders said, "We said we accept a state (in territory occupied) in 1967 -- but we did not say we accept two states." Click here for a great rundown of the details.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 20:11: We just heard CNN question why Israel is doing this while Condoleezza Rice was urging diplomacy and an international mediation was underway. No government ought to negotiate with terrorists, including Israel. The terrorists had 67 hours to return Cpl. Shalit before any action was taken, and the Israelis don't leave men behind.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 20:24: Ha'aretz reports that the IDF plans to take control of all areas east of Rafah. Reuters says that Palestinian security forces left the Gaza airport after being given an Israeli warning.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 20:32: YNET reports that soon after 02:30 local time, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said the group would kill kidnapped Eliyahu Asheri, 18, if IDF forces do not pull out of Gaza. Asheri was kidnapped on Sunday out of the West Bank. IDF forces are presently searching Bethlehem and Ramallah for him. More on the kidnapped teen here.
UPDATE 06/27 @ 21:25: Unfortunately, we're human and must sleep so that we can cover this story for you with our full effort. Don't give up on us tonight though... we'll continue to update if there is a dramatic breakthrough. As the Israelis continue to push into Gaza to rescue 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit and deal a blow to the terrorists, we must remember several important points. First, Israel is acting in self defense after months of rocket attacks terrorizing its population. Second, terrorists control the Palestinian Authority, and have brazenly endorsed the kidnapping. Third, while Mahmoud Abbas may be the elected President, his inability to bring about the release of the solider, or an end to the rocket attacks, has forced Israel to finally act on its own. We don't know of any other country that would do otherwise. Stay with us as our coverage of Operation Summer Rain continues at 08:30 Eastern time.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 07:07: Thanks for sticking with us... full coverage will begin at 08:30, but here are the latest developments while you were sleeping... During the night, there was a report from defense sources on Army Radio that the Gaza incursion is only the first phase of military operations... The IDF seized control over the Dahaniya airport in Gaza, despite the fact that it has not been operational in years... The Palestinian aerial assault continued unabated with four Qassam rockets being fired into Israel as Operation Summer Rain continues... Ha'aretz reports that if the rocket attacks continue, troops massed on the northern border of Gaza will enter the Strip. Vice Premier Shimon Peres called Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who operates from Damascus, a "a war criminal trying to make decisions for Palestinians" an interview on Army Radio... Former FM Silvan Shalom said Israel should press world powers to force Syria to evict Meshaal... Minister of Justice Haim Ramon echoed Shalom's sentiments, adding that he is a target for assassination (the Syrian leadership of Hamas ordered the kidnapping and now blocks non-military efforts to secure his release)... Mahmoud Abbas condemned Operation Summer Rain, saying the IDF's first incursion into Gaza is a war crime and constitutes collective punishment for thousands of Palestinians... Olmert reiterated that the goal of the Operation was to rescue Shalit, and that Israel has no intention of recapturing Gaza... Olmert added Israel that won't balk at "extreme action" to bring Shalit home... Stay with us for minute-to-minute updates beginning at 08:30 Eastern time.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 09:18: Sorry for the posting delay. Traffic is hell. Here is what we know now as far as what the IDF operation has included:
- Artillery fire at open areas in the southern Gaza Strip;
- Aerial attacks on three bridges in the central Gaza Strip;
- Aerial attack on an electricity transformer station south of Gaza City;
- Entry of armored forces into the Dahaniya area, mainly the abandoned airport. The area represents strategic control and observation point over Rafah and the southern Gaza Strip. So far there has been one incident of gunfire and anti-tank missle fire at the IDF, but no injured or damage has been reported.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 09:43: Our 'war room' is up and running. We're monitoring live video coming to us from the Gaza border, satellite television, the Internet and our contacts in the region. Here's the latest update... the EU is urging Israel and the Palestinians to "step back from the brink" before a crisis over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier spirals out of control.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 09:48: We watching Ramattan TV at the moment as the Palestinians react to Operation Summer Rain. They cannot confirm or deny if the Hamas-led government is working with a third-party to secure the release of Cpl. Shalit. They have asked the Palestinian representative to the UN to gather support amongst the Arab states and Non-Aligned countries to pressure the Security Council into convening to address "Israeli aggression" in Gaza. The Palestinians also call on the media to focus not on the Operation, but on the Palestinian prisoners "suffering" in Israeli jails, and they reiterated their demand that female prisoners and those under 18 be released immediately, because "it will solve a lot of problems."
UPDATE 06/28 @ 09:56: Deputy Palestinian PM Nasser al-Sha'er is urging the UN, the Security Council, the Vatican and "the whole world" to interfere and "stop a possible genocide in the Gaza Strip." Speaking from Ramallah, Sha'er said that Cpl. Shalit's life would not be secured by the Israeli "incursion" but by diplomacy. "I call them to move as they had moved seeking for saving the life of the Israeli kidnapped soldier; they have to stop the immoral war that targets the civilians and the attack that is being carried out by an army against the unarmed civilians."
UPDATE 06/28 @ 10:04: The Israeli Air Force fired missiles at a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses say. An AP report puts the exact location as Rafah. A factory for producing Qassam rockets was the target. There were no casualties reported.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 10:34: Courtesy of AP, via Yahoo News: Try and move a hostage under these conditions!
UPDATE 06/28 @ 10:45: Some 30 IDF vehicles are surrounding a building in Ramallah... this may be where kidnapped teenager Eliyahu Asheri is being held. We're hoping for the best, but our gut tells us to expect the worst.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 10:56: The White House says that Israel has the right to defend itself. Tony Snow said "The hostage taking and the attacks by Hamas last weekend have precipitated the current events in Gaza," and then added that Hamas should immediately release Cpl. Shalit. Snow then said "Israel has the right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens. In any actions the government of Israel may undertake, the United States urges that it ensures that innocent civilians are not harmed."
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:09: Here's an update on the update... Palestinian sources in Ramallah report that IDF soldiers arrested three Palestinians during an operation in the city, during which a force surrounding a building in which a wanted suspect is located. The identity of the suspects is still unknown.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:14: Jonathan Hunt is reporting for Fox News, and he just reported via video phone that Israeli F-16's will soon be back over Gaza after their earlier attack on a Qassam facility, and that ground troops are simply awaiting the order to move into Rafah from their current position.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:22: Israel's Channel Two is reporting that Palestinian gunmen say they have kidnapped a third Israeli. We'll monitor the situation should it be legit.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:36: John Vause just finished a report from Gaza for CNN International, in which the host asked him if "extended and extreme military action" was "a forgone conclusion." Military action will only be extended so long as Cpl. Shalit is held hostage. Once he is returned, the Operation will end. Israeli officials have made that abundantly clear in the last twelve hours (here and here).
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:47: If you are unfamiliar with the layout of Gaza, here is a decent map that should help you visualize where things are happening. Through it doesn't appear on this map, Rafah would be in the extreme southeast corner of Gaza.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:55: Palestinian sources in Ramallah said the IDF released three Palestinians arrested after a brief interrogation. According to the report, the three Palestinians were civilians not linked to armed organizations.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 11:59: Israel's Channel Two just aired a segment -- sorry we didn't catch his name -- of someone from Hamas complaining that Israel is angry when they kill soldiers and there is no appreciation that Cpl. Shalit is alive. In fact, they keep him alive, and Israel "comes to occupy us." Psychological warfare is well underway...
UPDATE 06/28 @ 12:03: The IDF has received approval in principle from Minister of Defense Amir Peretz to widen Operation Summer Rain. The next stage of the operation will include the entrance of forces to northern Gaza and capturing strategic positions. The timing of the next stage is not known, and depends on IDF operational considerations.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 12:22: Last night Margaret Warner interviewed Ori Nir, the Washington bureau chief for The Forward for The Newshour with Jim Lehrer on what's happening in Gaza. According to the show's page, Nir was formerly with Ha'aretz. Click here to listen to the mp3 of the program. Consider it for some lunchtime entertainment.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 12:31: Two Qassam rockets have been fired on Sderot. It is believed one of the rockets fell in Gaza, and the second in open territory in the western Negev. There are no injuries.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 12:37: AP is repeating Channel Two's earlier report that the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades have kidnapped a third Israeli. At this time, we are not able to establish official confirmation, but we'll keep you posted.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 13:18: BREAKING NEWS... Four Israel Air Force F-16 aircrafts carried out an aerial flight over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace, near the city of Latakia on Tuesday. Israel views the Syrian leadership as the main sponsor of terror groups headed by Hamas. Air Force planes flew around the palace while Assad was in it. The IDF took a similar step in the past, about three years ago, after a terror attack in a Haifa restaurant. This is considered a symbolic but significant move, mainly in light of recent declarations voiced by senior Israeli officials on Khaled Meshaal's link to what is taking place in Israel.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 14:20: Channel Two in Israel is reporting that Fatah terrorists have pledged to attack Israeli embassies overseas if there are civilian casualties in Gaza.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 15:12: Kofi Annan spoke with PM Olmert a short while ago, and told him that he spoke with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and urged them to assist with the release of the kidnapped soldier. Annan said that he was concerned about the situation in the Palestinian Authority and asked that Israel show restraint. Olmert told Annan that the government was doing nothing to help with the hostage's release or to put a stop to the Qassam fire. Bear in mind that not too long ago, Annan wasn't even aware that there were rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 16:44: The Palestinians have made contact with the French. Palestinian Authority Ambassador to France Hinad Huri said that according to information she received from the Authority, kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is alive and in good condition. In an interview to the Europe One radio station, Huri said that "the Palestinian president asked to free the soldier but the situation has been made difficult." Unfortunately, the Palestinian president has no political strength to deliver Shalit.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 17:21: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have asked Syrian President Bashar Assad to act for the release of Cpl. Shalit. Why would they take such a move? Because Syria harbors the Hamas terrorists who ordered this operation and hold up efforts to return Shalit to his family.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 18:33: Our apologies for the slow down in posting... couldn't break away from a meeting... the latest news is that the IDF is distributing flyers in northern Gaza, warning residents in Beit Hanun to leave their homes. Israel is so concerned about Palestinian civilians, they are giving them advance warning. Afterwards, the Air Force fired missiles into a southern Gaza warehouse used to manufacture and store weapons for Hamas.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 19:30: Israeli navy battleships fired shells toward Qassam launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip. Also, Israel Army Radio reports that a Qassam rocket has landed in the western Negev. No injuries have been reported.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 19:36: This from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades: "In previous invasions the Israeli side absorbed heavy losses in armored personnel carriers and jeeps that blew up, but this time we promise that the losses on the Israeli side will be much larger. We are preparing suicide bombers, car bombs, tunnels, and booby trapped donkeys. Everything that the Israelis encounter could turn out to be a deathtrap."
UPDATE 06/28 @ 19:41: Reuters is reporting a huge explosion in Gaza City. Details to come if this can be confirmed... Palestinians say the IAF fired missile at Islamic University in Gaza City... an Israeli army spokesman said the planes had targeted an open area in Gaza City. Witnesses said the missile crashed into a soccer field. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
UPDATE 06/28 @ 20:40: Fox News reports that 18-year-old Eliyahu Asheri, who was kidnapped out of the West Bank, has been killed by the PRC. More as this develops... IDF now confirms. Ha'aretz says "the location of Asheri's body was tipped off to the IDF by a Palestinian militant arrested on Tuesday. Security forces found the body buried in a field, and determined that he was shot in the head soon after he was kidnapped on Sunday." Yet the PRC let the family twist for days...
UPDATE 06/28 @ 21:24: Some media outlets, CNN for one, is not calling Asheri a teenager, a civilian or just a kid. They are calling him a settler with all the implications that term comes with. Asheri was 18-years-old. He was a kid. His life was ended by terrorists who picked him up on the side of the road because he was there, and because he was a Jew. Is it not possible to represent this kid in the light he deserves?
UPDATE 06/28 @ 21:40: Israel is undertaking several moves designed to increase pressure on Hamas to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit and return him safely to his family, including some very unexpected moves. It appears that Israel is in the process of a major round-up of the Hamas leadership. Hamas officials say that more than 30 "lawmakers" have been arrested in the West Bank (we can only hope the numbers are that high). Three Hamas "parliamentarians" -- Mohammed Abu Tir, Wael al-Husseini and Ahmed a-Tun -- are confirmed to have been arrested in East Jerusalem. Earlier, the IDF surrounded a Ramallah hotel where the Hamas Deputy PM Nasser al-Shaer was holed up, and then arrested him. Not long ago, Palestinian Labor Minister Mohammad Barghouti was arrested at a roadblock north of Ramallah. The entire Hamas leadership in the West Bank is being taken into custory -- Israeli reports say that this is unprecedented in its scope. It's like you can't even be a terrorist anymore! The heads of Hamas, including many ministers and most Hamas parliament members have been taken into custody... As a result, the leadership has gone underground... At the same time, the IDF is attacking Hamas infrastructures in Gaza, where dozens more are expected to be arrested.
Thanks to everyone who has commented or emailed supporting our coverage of Operation Summer Rain. Beginning tomorrow, we will stop updating this post, and start new posts from the top down. Our coverage will be as strong as ever. If you're not already doing so, bookmark us, blogroll us, sign up for our RSS feed or our email updates, tell your friends, and check back often at our homepage, www.vitalperspective.com.