The Israeli government issued a statement  late Thursday revealing that the country’s military had sent ground troops into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge, hours after Israeli forces thwarted an early morning terror attempt in which Hamas commandos – emerging from an attack tunnel emptying roughly 250 meters inside Israel – sought to infiltrate and inflict mass casualties on an Israeli community of roughly 150 people:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, this evening (Thursday, 17 July 2014), instructed the IDF to commence ground action to strike at the terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. Hamas terrorists used such a tunnel to infiltrate into Israel this morning in order to perpetrate a large-scale attack against Israeli citizens. The IDF successfully thwarted this terrorist action.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yaalon also instructed the IDF to be prepared for an expansion of the ground action. The directive for ground action was approved by the Security Cabinet after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, whereas Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities.
Hamas also did not honor the humanitarian ceasefire initiated by the UN and continued firing at Israeli cities during the lull. In light of Hamas’ criminal and relentless aggression, as well as the dangerous attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory, Israel must act to defend its citizens.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) posted pictures  of the weapons dropped by the intercepted Hamas fighters, which included anti-tank weapons and high-capacity Kalashnikovs.
Analysts had already called attention  to how the defensive dimensions of Hamas’s vast underground tunnel city might eventually trigger an Israeli ground operation. Hamas uses the network as a de-facto fortified storage facility for its rocket arsenal, making its ordnance politically though not militarily invulnerable to air strikes.
The activation of the tunnel infrastructure for mass-terror offensive operations was widely assessed as all but forcing the Israelis to deploy ground forces in order to degrade that infrastructure.
Speaking on a Thursday morning conference call organized by The Israel Project, Col. (res) Miri Eisin – a former deputy head of the IDF’s combat intelligence corps and a former assistant to the director of military intelligence – explained that  the infiltration had flipped the Israeli political debate in favor of the attack:
In the world, you’re still talking about the ceasefire. In Israel they’re talking much more about the fact that what may be happening today, tomorrow, tonight, tomorrow, will be a limited incursion to take care of these tunnels, that mile- to two-mile depth to see that they won’t be able to continue entering into Israel and I fully recommend looking at those photos that were released by the IDF spokesperson, because you can see so clearly how they infiltrate with units, with an enormous amount of weapons, that are coming on and in to do a combined attack-kidnapping scenario.
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