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Israel prepares to send in the tanks
Israel appears poised to extend its week-long assault on Gaza by launching a ground assault, amid renewed reports last night that troops and armour were preparing to move into the besieged Palestinian territory.
As more than 300 foreign passport holders were allowed to leave Gaza after the border was temporarily opened, Israeli officials warned that a ground offensive was needed to break the military power of Hamas, which has continued to carry out rocket attacks despite pulverising air strikes.
Tank and troop reinforcements have continued to build up along the edges of the Gaza Strip with soldiers saying they are waiting for orders to go in. Israeli sources, however, stated that commando raids and temporary occupation of strategic locations were the options being considered rather than a full-scale invasion, which would involve attritional fighting in the narrow alleyways of Gaza – home to an estimated 15,000 Hamas fighters.
There have been extensive reports in the local media of Israel carrying out a land operation which had been delayed by bad weather for much of the week. However, although the Israeli government had repeatedly warned that it may launch an offensive it remained unclear whether a final decision had been taken.