Israel Starts Gaza Ground Offensive

The Israeli military has begun a ground offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, stepping up its 10-day-old military operation.

It said it was in response to continued militant rocket fire and to strike a "significant blow to Hamas", which controls Gaza.

Hamas said Israel would pay a high price for the ground offensive.

There had been a five-hour humanitarian truce on Thursday, but exchanges of fire resumed when it ended.

Gaza's health ministry says 247 Palestinians have died since since the Israeli operation began on 8 July. It says more than three quarters of them were civilians.

One Israeli has died as a result of rocket fire from Gaza and several have been injured.

At least five Palestinians were killed on Thursday evening after the start of the ground offensive began, Palestinian authorities said.

They included a five-month-old in the town of Rafah, medical officials told AFP news agency.

Israel withdrew ground troops from the Gaza strip in September 2005, and last mounted a major ground operation in 2009.


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