Israel begins full-scale land invasion

israel begins invasion

Israeli tanks and troops began to move into the Gaza Strip Saturday night to destroy rocket launch facilities and capture or kill the Hamas leadership, the radical Islamic group who gained control of the territory 18 months ago.

Around 10,000 Israeli troops roared across the border into northern Gaza under cover of darkness in the first step of a full-scale land invasion.

Infantry, tanks, engineering forces, artillery and intelligence units are taking part in the ground attack, backed by the air force, navy and other security agencies, the army said.

The night sky over Gaza was lit by the flash of bullets and balls of fire from tank shells. Sounds of explosions were heard across Gaza City and high-rise buildings shook from the bigger explosions.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: “We are not war hungry but we shall not allow a situation in which our villages, towns and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas.

“We restrained ourselves for a long time but now is the time to do what needs to be done.” The operation, he said, “won’t be easy and it won’t be short”. In a veiled warning to Hezbollah, the Islamist militia in Lebanon, he said: “We hope the northern front will remain calm, but we are prepared for any possibility.”

As the offensive entered its eighth day, over 460 Palestinians had died and more than 2,100 had been injured. Four Israelis have also been killed in rocket fire into Israel in the past week.

Image: AP