Hamas members on Sunday violated a humanitarian cease-fire in the Shejaia area of Gaza and fired on IDF soldiers with anti-tank missiles and automatic fire, the army said.
The air force has begun resuming strikes in Shejaia, firing on locations from which the army came under fire. Hamas had no immediate comment on Israeli allegations it had breached the ceasefire.
The IDF had agreed to a Red Cross request for the two hour humanitarian cease-fire in the northeast Gaza district of Shejaia which has been the target of heavy Israeli artillery and air attacks throughout Sunday.
Prior to the cease-fire, the IDF had been carrying out wide-ranging attacks on Shejaia, which the army considers a main center of terror activity in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza medical sources were reporting that at least 50 people had been killed and hundreds wounded in the IDF attacks.
The IDF called on residents of the area to take the opportunity of the cease-fire to vacate Shejaia and make their way to Gaza City.
The army warned that any attempt to take advantage of the cease-fire to launch attacks on Israel would be answered with fire.
The mass casualties in Shejaia appeared to be the heaviest since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the IDF’s intensified shelling in the area as “the new massacre committed by the Israeli government in Shejaia.”
Asked about the attack on Shejaia, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: “Two days ago, residents of Shejaia received recorded messages to evacuate the area in order to protect their lives.”
Hamas, the dominant armed group in the Gaza Strip, had urged people across the territory not to heed the Israeli warnings and abandon their homes.
As the tank shells began to land, Shejaia residents called radio stations pleading for evacuation. An air strike on Shejaia home of Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, killed his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, hospital officials said.
Militants kept up their rocket fire on Israel, with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough toward a ceasefire in sight. Sirens sounded in southern Israeli towns and in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. There were no reports of casualties.
Israel sent ground forces into the Gaza Strip on Thursday after 10 days of air, naval and artillery barrages failed to stop rocket fire.
Large numbers of Ground Forces entered the Gaza Strip overnight between Saturday and Sunday as Israel expanded its operation against Hamas. The increased presence in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas infrastructure, the IDF said.
Earlier on Saturday, two more soldiers were killed in the Gaza Strip, the IDF announced, bringing the total number of Israeli military casualties to five since the start of the ground offensive.
Staff Sergeant Bania Roval, a 20-year-old soldier from Holon, serving in the Paratroopers 101st Battalion, was shot dead by a terrorist in Gaza who emerged from a tunnel shaft and opened fire at soldiers. The terrorist was shot dead in return fire.
The second soldier, 2nd-Lt. Bar Rahav, 21, from Ramat Yishai, from the Engineering Corps, was killed as a result of the activation of the Trophy missile defense system in a nearby tank. The system successfully blocked an anti-tank missile fired at the vehicle, but the soldier was killed in the process. The IDF is investigating.
Rahav was also a former player on Israel’s national water polo team. He won a national championship as the captain of Kiryat Tivon and played for the youth and senior Israel teams. Rahav chose to enlist with the Engineering Corps even though he could have applied for an exemption as an athlete.