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Thirteen IDF Golani Soldiers Killed in Gaza, at Start of Urban Stage of Israel's Operation Against Hamas

By DEBKAfile, VOA News, Israel Hayom, & YnetNews

President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday to voice serious concerns about the rising number of casualties in Gaza. Israel has the right to defend itself, he said, and the US condemns Hamas attacks against Israel, he said. But "The president also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers," the White House said in a statement describing the conversation.

The IDF Golani Brigades lost 13 soldiers in combat with Hamas early Sunday, July 20, in the Gaza Strip district of Shijaiyah, the military spokesman announced Sunday evening. The unit's commander, Col. Rosan Aliyan, was seriously injured. The urban stage of the IDF's Operation Defensive Edge has taken Israel into one of its most perilous wars, launched as Hamas' rocket barrage against the Israeli population continued without pause.

The central hospital in Gaza is reportedly overwhelmed by the number of wounded coming in ambulances, cars and trucks, mostly from Shijaiyah. Gaza resident Anas Hamra, who lives on the coast of the territory, told VOA he and his family huddled together in one room during the previous night, which he described as "the most terrifying" period since the operations began. "No one is safe, nowhere is safe. Because you move, you are a potential target by the airstrike or by the drones, or even by the Israeli navy," said Hamra.

Military forces began pounding the Shijaiyah neighborhood overnight, leaving civilians dead in the streets and reducing buildings and infrastructure to rubble. An Israeli military spokesman, Capt. Eytan Buchman said Israeli forces faced heavy resistance from militants in the area.

"This is not your standard Gaza suburb, this is a fortified area. There is literally an entire underground network, we discovered 10 terror tunnels dug underground. We encountered anti-tank missiles, RPGs and light-arms fire fired from windows and fired from residences inside of Shijaiyah," he said.

Israel is seeking to destroy the military capabilities of the Hamas Palestinian group that controls Gaza by targeting tunnels being dug into Israel and sites used to launch rockets across the border.

Local and international agencies say the majority of those killed in the Israeli operations have been civilians, with a large number of children among the dead. The Israeli military warns Palestinians of impending operations, and accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

After accepting a brief truce, that was requested and then violated by Hamas, Israeli forces went back to the operation begun overnight in the Hamas Shijaiyah stronghold, which bristles with large rocket stocks and arms factories and is the site of concealed openings of terrorist tunnels that snake under the border into Israel 2 km away to a point opposite Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

Still ahead of the Israeli operation, after the troops finish cleansing Shijaiyah are similar challenges to dismantle Hamas' offensive capabilities in another three of their Gaza City strongholds: Shaati, Al Bureij and Nuseirat, before Hamas' terrorist infrastructure can be said to have been disarmed.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz praised the Israeli units fighting in the Gaza Strip and pledged they will carry on for as long as necessary, until Israel is safe from Hamas terror. While regretting the loss of Palestinian civilian life, Gantz held Hamas responsible for the innocent casualties, by forcing them to stay in place in spite of Israel's warnings to them to escape. Hamas could have provided the population with shelters, schools and hospitals, instead of investing in rockets and tunnels for Israel's destruction, he said.

During Sunday, July 20, Israeli commanders rejected, then accepted, a Hamas request relayed via the Red Cross for a three-hour truce for the removal of its dead and wounded from the embattled Shijaiyah district. The Palestinians reported 60 dead and 200 injured in Sunday's battles there. The truce was extended by two hours, despite attacks by armed Hamas bands on Israeli troops, in breach of the ceasefire, which was the third Israel had accepted in the 12 days of its Gaza operation.

Hamas is not only bringing its deadly tunnels into play, but also planting small commando units heavily armed with anti-tank rockets across the paths of advancing Israeli armored forces. Saturday, those commandos fired 10 anti-tank rockets. Without their Windbreaker armor, many tanks would have been destroyed and the casualty toll much higher.

However, most of all, Hamas is fighting to save its tunnel system from systematic destruction by IDF demolition teams. This system was designed to be the Palestinian Islamists' highest strategic asset, comparable in importance to the IDF's chain of fortifications along the Syrian border. Around 16,000 men, around 15 percent of Hamas' fighting strength, were assigned to the tunnel project in the last five years and substantial funds. The IDF will not be permitted to demolish this flagship project without a savage fight.

The most important conclusion for Israel's war planners, from the first days of the ground phase of Israel's Operation Defensive Edge, is that Hamas is standing firm and not cracking, even under the relentless pounding of their military infrastructure by Israeli artillery and air might, and appears determined to fight on. Its commanders believe they can keep going for another 4 to 6 weeks, while also maintaining a steady hail of rockets against the Israeli population.

This estimate has spurred a major buildup of Israeli military strength for the Gaza operation. Another 50,000 reservists were called up Saturday night and a large number of infantry brigades started moving into the Gaza Strip overnight and will continue to arrive Sunday. The extra forces have made it possible to embark on the second, urban stage of the IDF operation, the breaching of the densely-populated towns.

A different type of combat lies ahead from the project for destroying tunnels. It is tougher and more perilous. But there is no other way to reach Hamas' command centers and its longest-range rockets. With this mission still unaccomplished, talk of a ceasefire sounds as though it comes from another planet. Hamas feels strong and confident enough to spurn the Egyptian-Israeli ceasefire proposal, which is firmly backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Every attempt to sway its political leader Khaled Meshaal, when he was buttonholed in Kuwait, ran into a blank wall. He summarily rejected invitations from Egypt and the Arab League to travel to Cairo and discuss the cessation of hostilities.

A video released by the IDF Sunday shows soldiers in action, destroying a tunnel dug by Hamas terrorists into Israel. The video shows the soldiers stringing explosives and blowing the tunnel up. "This is one of the first tunnels we found during this operation," a soldier tells the camera. "It was dug in order to infiltrate Israeli communities.

Sunday may have marked the start of a new week in Israel, but one things remained the same -- rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. On Sunday morning, sirens sounded in suburbs north of Tel Aviv. Hamas said it fired three M-75 rockets at the Tel Aviv area.

Later, sirens sounded in Rishon Lezion area, just south of Tel Aviv, and the Iron Dome intercepted an incoming rocket. Rockets were also fired at the Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon regions on Sunday morning, as well as at communities adjacent to the Gaza border.

Rocket fragments fell throughout Rishon LeTzion on Sunday, after the Iron Dome intercepted a large volley fired on the heavily-populated Gush Dan region. But as shrapnel rained on the unsuspecting populace, one kindergarten was narrowly missed by a large fragment - an open miracle, as Channel 2 reports.

Some 20 children and staff headed into a protected area just moments before the rockets were intercepted, according to the daily. No staff or children were injured and no damage was reported.

Clara Nehmadi, kindergarten director, spoke to the outlet about the near-miss. "Shrapnel fell and security forces evacuated us," she recounted. "The children are fine, I hugged each of them and calmed them. This is Russian roulette; you never know where a rocket can fall," she explained. "The entire country is within range." Nehmadi added that she "do[es] drills throughout the year" and that the children are "trained" to enter their protected area.

Mayor of Rishon Lezion Dov Tzur visited the kindergarten shortly after the incident and praised the staff and children for following procedure.

"We saw a small depression in the earth where the shrapnel fell in the kindergarten courtyard," he said. "The children were in a secured room and followed procedure. I don't want to think about what would happen if shrapnel fell in the yard while children were playing," he added.

Rocket fire on Israel has become so common since the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza that one kindergarten teacher published a song to help children cope with the fear and anxieties of the attacks.

As Operation Protective Edge extends well into its thirteenth day against Hamas rocket fire, at least 1,770 rockets have been estimated to have been fired on Israeli civilians - and close to 10,000 have been fired since the 2005 Disengagement.

Tel Aviv residents had to scramble for cover twice on Friday. Late Friday afternoon, the Iron Dome intercepted a volley of rockets fired at Tel Aviv. Shrapnel fell in Bnei Brak and Petach Tikva, but there were no injuries. Three hours later, another salvo of rockets was fired at Tel Aviv. A motorcyclist was injured when he was hit by a passing vehicle on the Ayalon highway as the rocket warning sirens sounded.

Meanwhile, the absence of protective facilities in the areas populated by Bedouin exacted the heaviest possible toll on Friday when 30-year-old Oudi al-Waj was killed and his 3-month-old daughter was seriously wounded as a rocket fired from Gaza struck their home. The victim's 4-year-old son and his wife, 24, were also wounded, as was one other relative.

A friend of the family said that "when they say that rockets exploded in open areas, that means they exploded where we live. The Iron Dome system does not intercept these rockets, there are no sirens and we don't have shelters. This particular rocket struck these people's home, 50 meters from my house. They didn't have a chance. Their house was hit directly, and it isn't even a house -- it is a kind of hut." The infant suffered head injuries, and she is currently under a medically induced coma. The 4-year-old sustained light shrapnel injuries all over his body.

"We didn't hear any siren," said the children's maternal grandfather who spent the weekend next to his daughter's hospital bed. "But even if we had, there would not have been anything for us to do. There is nowhere to hide. He was a good guy. He worked and provided for his family."

Hamas' military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, claimed Sunday evening that the organization had successfully kidnapped an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists did not present any evidence in their announcement and the IDF said that officials are investigating the issue.

In an announcement aired on Hamas' television station Al-Aqsa, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesperson said, "What the enemy isn't aware of is that it's lost one of its soldiers in action today. How can they hide the disappearance of the soldier?"

In the announcement, which led to a wave of celebrations in the Gaza Strip, the spokesperson added that, "This soldier is a captive in the hands of al-Qassam in this action. If the enemy leadership is lying about the dead and the wounded, it must give an answer to the public about the fate of this soldier now." As stated, the militant did not produce any proof of their claims, and it may be an attempt to open a front in the arena of psychological warfare.

Secretary of State John Kerry is blaming Hamas for the continued fighting in the Gaza Strip. In a string of television interviews Sunday, the top U.S. diplomat said the Hamas have "stubbornly" refused to accept a cease-fire to stop the nearly two-week conflict.

Kerry defended Israel's right to defend itself against the barrage of missiles Hamas has fired into the Jewish state, which sent ground forces into Gaza three days ago. Kerry said Hamas "invited further actions" by the Israeli military with the rocket attacks. He described the situation in Gaza as "ugly," but said that Hamas needed "to recognize their own responsibility."

As sirens blared at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, warning of incoming rockets on Thursday, a group of Israeli surgeons continued to operate on a Palestinian baby, alongside an Israeli child, in the intensive care ward, which is not adequately protected from rocket strikes.

The Palestinian infant was suffering from multiple birth defects and arrived at the hospital attached to a respirator. "The baby required an emergency tracheostomy when the siren began," recounted Dr. Marina Rubenstein, a senior physician at the pediatric intensive care unit at Sheba Medical Center.

"Our doctors didn't even move from the bed," she said, even though all Israelis are instructed to enter a protected space when the sirens sound. "Our responsibility is to young children, regardless of where the child is from or the child's religion," Rubenstein said. "The children aren't responsible for the situation, but perhaps these children will at some point become our ambassadors and remember their treatment here."

Korean Air suspended Israel-bound flights until Thursday as a result of the ongoing operation in the Gaza Strip, the company announced on Friday. The airline hinted that the move was partially designed to review safety issues in the wake of the incident last week in which a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

"To ensure the safety of customers from the political unrest of the Israel [sic], flights to Tel Aviv (TLV) will be suspended for the duration specified below," read a statement on the company's website bearing the headline "Notification of temporary flight suspension to Tel Aviv." The company operates three Tel Aviv-bound flights each week.

No other airline has announced any changes to its summer flight schedule. Ben-Gurion International Airport usually sees an uptick in traffic in July, with roughly 50,000 Israelis and tourists flying out or arriving at the destination each day. According to officials, some 30% of ticket-holders have canceled their travel plans as a result of the Gaza fighting.

The cancellations have increased availability on flights all through July, prompting airlines to offer major discounts. Ophir Tours Deputy Director Yehuda Zafrani said the discount offered for package deals could be as high as 50% off the normal rate in July.

The Higher Their Numbers, The More They Demand

By Ed Ziegler (Commentary)

Anyone who follows the actions in the Middle East or Islamic communities readily becomes aware that Muslims continuously make demands on their non-Islamic neighbors. One would assume they come to westernized countries like the USA for a better way of life. Yet through their ongoing demands it appears they want to convert our lives to the strict oppressive Islamic life style they've left.

For example the Council on American-Islamic Relation's Executive Director Dawud Walid sent a complaint letter to the Michigan Roseville Public Schools stating that "School staff and teachers are not to serve as advocates for one particular religion by passing out slips inviting parents to give permission for their children to attend religious instruction." Yet he offered a booklet, called "An Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices" a book that elevates Islam.

As is common for Muslim communities, Muslims in New York City are demanding special treatment at the expense of non-Muslims. They demand public schools cater to their religious food limitations. They prepared a video showing kids telling how heartbreaking it is to have to eat peanut butter and jelly, or bring something from home. It makes them feel different. Interesting that their Arabic clothing (i.e. hajib) does not make them feel different.

The vegetarian options offered are insufficient to satisfy their demands. Could it be that their intention is to have non-Muslims submit to Islam one step at a time.

During the public comment period in February 2014, at the Dearborn city council meeting, a Muslim, Mr. Hassan, demanded that the city institute shariah patrols to keep young people out of parks and to prevent the sale of "offensive" magazines in stores. Mr. Hassan also wants the city to institute shariah compliant patrols to establish shariah compliant censorship at libraries. Fortunately, the city council shot down Hassan's demands.

It has been confirmed by a number of studies that Muslim demands increase as the percentage of Muslims. increases. The following is from an Atlas Shrugs' post adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: "Slavery, Terrorism & Islam: Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat." When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well.

Here's how it works. As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will, be for the most part, regarded as a peace-loving minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in: United States 0.6%, Australia 1.5%, Canada 1.7%.

At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize other ethnic minorities and recruit from within jails and street gangs. This is happening in: Denmark 2%, Germany 3.7%, United Kingdom 2.7%. From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population.

For example, they will pressure supermarkets for the introduction of halal food, on supermarket shelves. They will threaten for failure to comply. This will secure food preparation jobs for Muslims. This occurred in: France 8% Philippines 5%, Sweden 5%.

At this point, they will demand the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Shariah, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Shariah law over the entire world. See more at:

Another example of their demands is in Bridgeview, IL. A Muslim school wanted its girls' basketball team to play road games against non-Muslim schools insisting that men and teenage boys are banned from observing their daughters and sisters. Again non-Muslims are being pressured to adhere to the Muslim faith. In Australia Muslims succeeded in requiring anyone using a public swimming pool to wear Muslim approved clothing during the period of Ramadan,

Muslim leaders around the world such as Anjem Choudary, in Britain, want to stop everyone from celebrating Christmas and wishing " Merry Christmas". He threatened that there would be "hell to pay."

When will we stop submitting and retain our cherished way of life?

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