First Night of Israeli Ground Ops Kills 27 Palestinians; Ambulances Come Under Fire

Those civilian casualties included three children.

Israel’s ground invasion began last night at 10 pm with extensive blasts in the north of Gaza causing thousands to flee south. Since then, at least 27 Palestinians have been killed, bringing the total Palestinian casualties since “Operation Protective Edge” began ten days ago to 267 deaths and over 2,000 injuries.

Those civilian casualties included three children aged four to 12 who were killed in their beds while sleeping last night. Peter Beaumont of the Guardian reported, “What I am most struck today is that the casualties I am seeing are largely children.”

Overnight one Israeli soldier was killed. Harriet Sherwood reported for the Guardian, “Eitan Barak, 20 – was possibly killed by so-called friendly fire in the north of Gaza.” Three others were wounded.The Israeli military fired at a total of 100 sites last night, including shelling to the el-Wafa hospital, which patients and staff had to abandon as it was being struck and set ablaze. Patients have all been moved to the Sahaba medical clinic.

“We have lots of missing items like medications,” said hospital director Basman Alashi. Although they evacuated under fire, none of the patients sustained injuries. “Some of them their condition is that they are crying all of the time but we are trying to comfort them.” This morning Alashi went to check on what remained of el-Wafa hospital, finding the facility was “sill on fire in the second floor, some rooms still had smoke coming out,” but reported exterior walls had been destroyed by the blasts and interior rooms were blackened beyond repair.

Alashi described the trip to the hospital as “extremely dangerous.” Israeli forces are still shelling the region. “I was there and I was walking beside the wall because of drones and I could hear firing all around me. Plus the smell of bombs and the smell of smoke it makes me feel sorry the loss we have,” he said.

In the Shuja’iyeh neighborhood of Gaza City,  Israeli forces fired on Red Crescent ambulances. According to medical volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement, between 12 am and 3 am emergency responders were unable to retrieve the injured. Throughout the strip many regions lost power and grid lines were destroyed from shelling. Fighting continues dispersed throughout all of Gaza, but “the Israeli military has not pushed in vary far” under the ground invasionnoted Democracy Now’s Sharif Abdel Kouddos, “but the shelling is very intense.”

“Thousands of people have been displaced, we have opened up three shelters in the south,” said UNRWA’s Chris Gunness, “I fully anticipate by the end of the day there will be more. UNRWA has opened 34 shelters servicing more than 30,000 Palestinians rendered homeless. One shelter was closed as it became “insecure for civilians,” when rockets were found stashed in the school. “Already 55 UNRWA premises had been damaged,” said Gunness.

“As UNRWA opens facilities for the displaced we make an urgent appeal for the respect of International Humanitarian Law and on all parties for the protection of civilians, respect for human rights workers and for United Nations premises and property.” UNRWA buildings were targeted during the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead when the Israeli army struck a school with white phosphorus.

On Friday morning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced “a substantive broadening” of the ground invasion. While he initially vowed last night to focus on targeting tunnels running under Gaza to Israel, only nine have been struck.”I know that international public opinion always receives a distorted picture of operations such as these,” Haaretz reported Netanyahu said this morning, reiterating his stance that the near 80-percent civilian casualty rate incurred in Gaza were the sole responsibility of Hamas.  “It’s unavoidable. But this time, in contrast to the past, there are many in the international community who understand that the responsibility for the victims rests with Hamas, and only Hamas. That’s an important thing for Israel,” he continued.

Forty-thousand Israeli reservists had already been called up before the ground invasion. Under Netanyahu’s expansion and additional 18,000 have received orders to report for duty.

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.