Israel launches ground offensive, toll 260

RSTV Bureau

gaza_strikeIsrael has launched its first massive ground offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in five years, after 10 days of bombardment from the air and sea killed nearly 260 Palestinians.

In a dramatic escalation of the conflict, Israeli forces backed by artillery and air strikes launched the ground offensive on Thursday night with the army saying the objective is to strike a “significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”

Israeli army said  that the “Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF )has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip”.

To establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror, the operation is launched said IDF.

Israeli Army spokesman Gen Moti Almoz issued an appeal asking that “the residents of Gaza to evacuate the areas in which the army is operating. This operation will be extended as much as necessary.”

A Palestinian source said that An Israeli soldier was killed in the northern Gaza Strip following a night of heavy fighting. At least five Palestinians were killed after the ground offensive began.

At least 1,920 Palestinians have been wounded. Israeli jets have struck over 2,000 targets in Gaza.

In response, Palestinian militants fired more than 1,500 rockets since the fighting began, targeting all of Israel and killing one Israeli civilian and injuring four soldiers. There had been a five-hour humanitarian truce on Thursday, but exchanges of fire resumed when it ended.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said that “Hamas had rejected the ceasefire intended to start on Tuesday and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed regret over Israel’s ground offensive against Gaza despite calls from the global community for restraint. Ban-Ki-moon said that “I regret that despite my repeated urgings, and those of many regional and world leaders together, an already dangerous conflict has now escalated even further.”

Hamas’ exiled Chief Khalid Meshal also gave statement on the Israeli Operation and said that the Israeli ground operation was destined to failure.

Journalists in Gaza were warned to take shelter, shortly before the ground offensive announcement was made. Some witnesses were quoted as seeing some 10 tanks crossing the border into north-west Gaza. Israeli commandos have also been spotted on the beach in Gaza.