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Palestine | International

Israel begins Gaza ground assault
by Al Jazeera (reposted)
Saturday Jan 3rd, 2009 11:28 AM
The Israeli army has confirmed its troops have entered the Gaza Strip as it escalates its offensive on the eighth day of operations.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, a spokesman for the Israeli government said: "They [Israeli ground forces] will be completing the mission of the air force, going for Hamas headquarters and weapons caches and giving a blow to their capability to launch attacks into Israel."

The gound assault came as the death toll of Palestinians climbed past 450 on Saturday as a strike on a northern Gaza town killed at least 11 people, including one child, who were praying in a mosque.

Earlier, Israeli artillery has started firing shells into the Gaza Strip for the first time.

Hamas resistance

Israeli soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers had been massing along Gaza's edge for days.

A column of tanks were said to have entered the besieged Gaza Strip though the Beit Hanoun crossing shortly after nightfall on Saturday.

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http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/200913165056951537.html
by Haaretz (reposted)
Saturday Jan 3rd, 2009 11:30 AM
"The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations," said Israel Defense Forces Major Avital Leibovitch, a military spokeswoman, confirming that incursions were under way. "We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas."

The IDF Spokesperson's office issued a statement, emphasizing that this stage of the operation will further the goals of the eight-day offensive as voiced by the IDF until now: To strike a direct and hard blow against the Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of Southern Israel over the long term.

Large numbers of forces are taking part in this stage of the operation including infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence with the support of the Israel Air Force, Israel navy, the Shin Bet security service and other security agencies.

Meanwhile, the cabinet has authorized an emergency call up of tens of thousands of IDF reservists.

The invasion was preceded by the firing of artillery shells into the strip from military preparation sites dotted along the Gaza-Israel border.

The artillery fire aimed to detonate Hamas explosive devices and mines planted along the border area before troops marched in.

Palestinian witnesses said the artillery barrage caused a large explosion in Gaza City as well as a series of blasts stitching the nearby frontier with Israel.

Channel 10 television quoted a witness as saying that Israel was shelling targets along the entire length of the shared border.

At one tank base along the border, the roar of tank engines and the rumble of their movements toward the border could be heard after dark, though none moved across the frontier. Hamas officials also reported tank movement toward the border near the northern Erez crossing point.

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http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1052299.html
by BBC (reposted)
Saturday Jan 3rd, 2009 11:37 AM
Israeli ground troops have started to enter the Gaza Strip, Israeli military officials have confirmed, a week after the offensive against Hamas began.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the intention was to "take control" of areas from which Palestinian militants have been firing rockets into Israel.

A BBC reporter in Gaza says it appears to be a limited operation with 10 to 15 vehicles crossing the northern border.

Earlier, Israel intensified air and artillery attacks on the territory.

In one raid, at least 13 people were killed when a missile struck a crowded mosque in Beit Lahiya, Palestinian medics said.

Witnesses said more than 200 people had been inside the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque for evening prayers when it was struck.

Palestinian medics and Hamas officials said they believed dozens were injured. At least one child was among the dead, they added.

Militants in Gaza meanwhile fired more rockets into southern Israel on Saturday, one of which hit the port of Ashdod, injuring two people.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7809959.stm