Israel begins ground offensive into Gaza

Israeli military says it will hit Palestinian militant targets throughout territory

Rockets being fired from Israel into the Gaza Strip, as well as fire from Israeli ground forces inside the Gaza Strip, early this morning. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Rockets being fired from Israel into the Gaza Strip, as well as fire from Israeli ground forces inside the Gaza Strip, early this morning. Photograph: Amir Cohen/Reuters

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 00:51

Israel began a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip last night, saying it would target tunnels that can infiltrate its territory after ceasefire talks failed to de-escalate the air war that has raged for 10 days.

The military released a statement saying the goal of the operation was to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror”.

It said its ground offensive would hit Palestinian militant targets throughout the Hamas-controlled territory. “We are now continuing with the ground forces to strike terrorist infrastructure, Hamas infrastructure, in multiple areas throughout the Gaza Strip,” army spokesman Lieut-ColPeter Lerner told reporters.

‘Dreadful consequences’

Hamas said the ground incursion would have “dreadful consequences”.

“It does not scare the Hamas leaders or the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. “We warn [Israeli prime minister Binyamin] Netanyahu of the dreadful consequences of such a foolish act.”

Palestinians and journalists in Gaza reported heavy artillery fire from ground troops in the north and naval gunboats stationed near Gaza’s port as well as a continuing air assault, with strikes targeting a rehabilitation hospital and, earlier, killing four young children as they played on a roof. Scores of rockets from Gaza continued to stream into cities all over central and southern Israel.

Earlier at least four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City Gaza officials said, as hostilities quickly resumed at the end of a five-hour “humanitarian window” both sides had agreed to after nine days of fighting.

Gaza militants sent rockets into southern Israel starting precisely at 3pm, the end of the lull, and scores followed into the early evening, most landing in open areas. Israel held its fire for a couple of hours, but then hit hard, striking a house in eastern Gaza City around 6pm and killing three children, according to witnesses and Gaza’s health ministry. Five other people in the house were wounded.

The Israeli military said five of the 57 rockets fired from Gaza hit open areas in southern Israel, including in the city of Ashkelon, and another fell short and landed inside Gaza. Two others were intercepted by Israel’s missile defence system over Tel Aviv – (New York Times/Reuters)