Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday. Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip Thursday, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas' weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory's border with Israel.
Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday. Israel launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip Thursday, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas' weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory's border with Israel. AP Photo - Lefteris Pitarakis

Israel has launched a full-on invasion of the Gaza Strip

ISRAEL has begun a major ground invasion of the Gaza Strip after a day of fierce fighting between its forces and Hamas that saw three more Palestinian children killed in an airstrike.

Heavy fighting was reported to be taking place in the north of the Strip, in the Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya areas and also in Khan Younis and Rafah. Artillery fire, believed to be mortar and howitzer, was coming from the north intermittently, with rockets from Gaza arcing towards Israel.

Israeli media reported the loud rumblings of Israeli tanks and D9 bulldozers revving up their engines to cross the border.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told the AFP news agency that Israeli tank fire had killed a five-month-old baby and another person in Rafah, southern Gaza, in the early hours of Friday local time.

One resident of Beit Lahiya said in a telephone call: "There are shots being heard, we are all staying inside. A lot of the area has no electricity at the moment."

In messages on Twitter, another Gaza resident, Sarah Ali, described events following the end of the ceasefire at 3pm on Thursday local time.

"3:11 in Gaza & Israeli F16s are in the sky already. Must have been hard for terrorists to stop bombing people for 5 hours," she said.

A few hours later, she wrote: "Now Israel is literally bombing #Gaza from everywhere: air, sea, and land. Terrifying sounds across the Strip. Sound of gunboat shelling is the most horrible. Not so loud but continuous & in barrage. Drones. Apaches & warships. Tanks on the outskirts of east & north Gaza. Families stuck with injuries. This is a war zone."

The US today called on Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties after four children were killed on a beach in the Gaza Strip. However, today saw three more children killed, apparently when they were feeding pigeons.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reasserted Washington's condemnation of Hamas's "indiscriminate rocket attacks" targeting Israeli civilians and affirmed US support for Israel's right to defend itself.

But she added: "We continue to urge all parties to do all they can to protect civilians. We have been heart-broken by the high civilian death toll in Gaza."


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