Israel embarks on ground operation in Gaza, first exchange of fire

Saturday night, Jan 3 – Day 8 of Israel’s Gaza operation, Israel launched its tank and armored infantry invasion of the Gaza Strip. Arab sources report crossings at several points. Hamas leader Mussa Abu Marzuk said Israeli forces have reached the outskirts of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.
Israeli military spokesman defined the goals of the operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, as securing Hamas’ rocket launching sites and breaking Hamas’ military wing. Tens of thousands of reservists have been called up. The IDF bombed Jihad Islami headquarters in Gaza.
Frist Israeli-Hamas exchange of fire are reported with Hamas casualties.
The troops and tanks advanced under cover of heavy Israeli artillery shelling of the Gaza Strip for the first time along with air strikes and a naval bombardment. Flares illuminated open ground and an electricity outage darkened city.
The Israeli air force scattered thousands of fliers over Gaza City districts warning dwellers that Israeli would soon strike terrorist targets in their neighborhoods and not to hide terrorists.
Israel raised the level of alert in the North.
Silence fell over towns and communities around the Gaza Strip in the early hours of the Israeli incursion after dozens of Hamas rockets smashed buildings in Netivot, Sderot and Ashdod and landed between Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. Schools within range of Gaza will remain closed Sunday, Jan. 4.
Last week, President George W. Bush gave Israel the green light to continue striking Hamas by air, sea and land.
The chairman of Iran’s national security council, Saeed Jalili, held talks in Damascus with Syrian president Bashar Assad Friday and blasted Arab countries which “encouraged the Zionist regime to attack “through their silence.” He conferred with Hamas and Jihad Islami leaders to the Iranian embassy and will carry on his talks in Beirut Sunday.
Egyptian foreign minister Abol Geit said: Cairo will not let itself be dragged into war with Israel.
The Palestinians reported 450 dead and 2,500 injured in eight days of Israeli attacks.

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