Israel began a major counter-offensive against Hamas early on Tuesday morning in response to escalating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
The offensive, labelled Operation Protective Edge, began with air and sea strikes on at least 50 sites in Gaza, including four houses belonging to militants and 18 concealed rocket launchers.
According to the IDF, the operation was launched to combat the hundreds of rockets fired at Israel in recent weeks – culminating on Monday with the launch of 80 projectile missiles.
Military spokesperson Lieutenant Peter Lerner said: “They chose the direction of escalation. So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”
He added that the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living within a 25-mile radius of the Gaza Strip had been ordered to stay indoors.
As part of Operation Protective Edge, Israeli troops were also mobilised for a potential ground attack. This came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would do “whatever is necessary” to combat the growing violence in the region.
Attacks have surged in recent weeks in the area, after three Israeli teenagers – Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach – were murdered by Hamas insurgents last month. This was followed last week by the murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khadir.