Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

MISSILES and shells pounded Gaza every minute in a brutal blitz as Israel launched a massive assault to try and flush out terror group Hamas.

Israeli forces stepped up their onslaught as they launched a third raid in as many nights into the tiny enclave – sending tanks and troops over the border as they “expanded” their ground operation.

Smoke rises amid destroyed buildings in Gaza seen from Sderot

Israeli soldiers patrol on a street near Gaza

AFPAn Israeli air force AH-65 Apache attack helicopter flies overhead[/caption]

AFPThe Israeli military fires mortar shells toward the Gaza Strip[/caption]

AFPSmoke rises from an Israeli strike on Gaza[/caption]

Ian WhittakerSun man Robin Perrie is on the frontline[/caption]

Gaza has been pounded for weeks as Israel seeks to destroy Hamas – who massacred some 1,400 civilians and took hundreds hostage on October 7.

And last night the brutal siege reached new heights as Israel launched a ground invasion in all but name.

After a long night of devastating attacks from land, sea and air, huge explosions could once again be heard across the besieged enclave.

From my vantage point in southern Israel – just a few hundred yards from the security fence which rings Gaza – the devastation of one Palestinian city could clearly be seen.

As fighter jets roared overhead, plumes of white smoke rose into the sky as yet another Israeli missile smashed into the previously densely-populated area.

At one stage I saw a trail of white smoke suddenly appear in the sky and a second later a missile slammed into a building.

A huge cloud of white smoke then slowly rose into the sky.

Myself and Sun photographer Ian Whittaker then ducked when a rocket flew overhead and was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. 

Missiles are striking Gaza every minute with no sign of a let up since Israel said last night that “ground forces are expanding their operations”.

In the hours after that announcement, in the pitch black, the bone dry scrubland of southern Israel shook beneath my feet when explosion after explosion rocked Gaza.

Brigadier General Gilad Keinan, head of Israel’s Air Force Operations, said: “[The] goal is clear – to destroy everything touched by the hand of Hamas.”

The ear-splitting sound of intense shelling was interspersed with the high-pitched whine of drones overhead.

It comes as

Israel “expanded” their ground operations with a fresh bombardment and large raid into GazaIt followed smaller overnight tank assaults on Wednesday and ThursdayForces are also massing on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to face down terror group HezbollahIsrael revealed Hamas’ alleged ‘Terror HQ’ hidden beneath a hospital in northern GazaFears are growing an invasion of Gaza could be the “bloodiest war for more than 100 years”And there could be just six steps between the Gaza crisis and all-out war in the Middle East SAS forces are on standby in Cyprus to rescue Brits stranded in Gaza Vladimir Putin is feared to try and cash in on the war with a new “Axis of Terror” US forces continue to mass in the Middle East – striking Iran-backed militia groups with airstrikes

A tank – likely a Merkava with a 120mm cannon and remote-controlled roof-mounted machine guns – then roared across the scrubland in front of us.

It was impossible to tell in the dark which side of the 20ft-high security fence which rings Gaza it was on.

But it was clearly patrolling the border zone on the hunt for escaping Hamas fighters.

As it roared up and down, volleys of machine gun fire echoed back and forth as red tracer bullets shot along the border fence.

Israel later revealed that around a hundred fighter jets were used to attack Gaza through the night, striking hundreds of targets.

This morning– exactly three weeks since the terror attack which claimed 1,400 lives – it was clear that Israel was pressing on with its stated aim of obliterating Hamas.

On the edge of Beit Hanoun, the northern Gaza city closest to Israel, a series of devastated buildings could be seen.

An entire neighbourhood appeared destroyed – many buildings had been crushed under the force of the aerial bombardment while others were on the verge of collapse.

It was impossible to know how many of the city’s 50,000 residents had fled south, as instructed by Israel, or how many had remained, as ordered by ruthless Hamas commanders.

It was also impossible to know how many Palestinians were killed in the latest bombardment, due to a communications blackout.

Internet and mobile phone networks went down last night and were still disabled this morning.

A string of organisations including Al-Jazeera and medical charity Doctors Without Borders were unable to contact their staff.

But a confirmed casualty according to Israel was Asem Abu Rakaba, the Head of Hamas’ Aerial Array.

He is said to have commanded the Hamas fighters who invaded Israel on paragliders on October 7 as well as being responsible for drone attacks on Israeli military posts.

Israel Defence Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari confirmed that troops entered northern Gaza overnight and said they were “still in the field” today.

The IDF also released a video showing tanks and other military vehicles in Gaza.

Soldiers were said to have entered the strip in at least locations, two on the northern border fence close to where The Sun watched the developing bombardment.

Massive airstrikes targeted the Jabalia refugee camp in north-east Gaza as Israeli ground troops penetrated deep into the Gaza Strip.

Ian WhittakerGaza the morning after the biggest night of bombing since October 7[/caption]

AFPPeople check the wreckage of a destroyed building in Gaza[/caption]

AFPChildren walk past a destroyed building after the siege[/caption]

EPAIsraeli soldiers man howitzers near Gaza[/caption]

AFPPalestinians fill plastic jerrycans at a portable water filling point in Rafah[/caption]

AFPIsraeli soldiers ride an armoured vehicle along a road near gaza[/caption]

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