JERUSALEM (AA) - A senior Israeli military official on Thursday said that ongoing escalations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone could lead to another “wide-scale” assault on the blockaded Gaza Strip, according to Israeli media reports.
“We are closer to a wide-scale operation in Gaza than we’ve ever been,” Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an unnamed military source as saying.
The source added that the Israeli army was sending reinforcements to areas along the buffer zone.
“If necessary, residents of the Gaza border communities [inside Israel] will be evacuated,” the source said.
“There will be a situation assessment Thursday morning in order to decide on the reinforcements and the deployment of the Iron Dome [missile-defense] system,” the source added.
The Israeli army, meanwhile, said at least 150 rockets have been fired into Israel by Gaza-based resistance faction Hamas since the current round of hostilities began.
According to the army, 25 of these rockets -- which targeted Israeli border communities and the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon -- were successfully intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.
The army went on to say it had bombed more than 120 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip Wednesday night.
Since Palestinians in Gaza began holding mass rallies on March 30, at least 155 protesters have been martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli army troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.
Protesters demand the “right of return” to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 11-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.