Gaza conflict: Israel expands ground offensive

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Israel says it has expanded its ground operation against Hamas, with Gaza reporting the heaviest shelling since the conflict began 13 days ago.

a statement, Israel’s military said “additional forces” had joined “the effort combat terror” Gaza.

Four Palestinians died, including children and the of a senior Hamas official, in new airstrikes on Sunday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due arrive in Qatar later meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

His visit is part of a regional tour aimed at helping Israelis and Palestinians “end the violence and find a way forward”, the UN said.

But the death toll continued rise at the weekend, with the number of Palestinians killed at more than 350 – the vast majority of them civilians.

Five Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian have died since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched the military offensive on 8 July.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent ground troops into Gaza on Thursday after 10 days of heavy air and naval barrages failed to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

in Gaza said the shelling overnight on was the heaviest of the 13 days of fighting

A UN official said the number of people fleeing the violence in Gaza was much higher than expected

‘Restoring security’

Israel says the ground operation is necessary to target a Hamas tunnel network, which it says it could not do only from the air.

Israeli soldiers were killed on during a gunfight with Palestinian militants who had used tunnels to cross into Israel to launch an attack, the IDF said.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s and citizens”.


Residents in Gaza reported hearing explosions throughout the night on .

An airstrike in the suburb of Shejaiya targeted the house of Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, killing four people including his and -in-law, Palestinian said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations warned that it was running out of supplies to help more than 50,000 Palestinians who have sought shelter at its in Gaza.

A UN official said the number of people fleeing was much higher than expected, with both the Israeli and Egyptian closed to Gazans.

Fears over civilian deaths

Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire involving, among others, Egypt, Qatar, France and the UN, have failed to make any .

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Mr Netanyahu on Saturday, but said that attempts to agree a ceasefire had failed.

“Sadly I can say that the call for a ceasefire has not been heard, and on the contrary, there’s a risk of more civilian casualties that worries ,” he told press.

Qatar is expected to host a between President Abbas and Ban Ki-moon on Sunday before the UN chief continues on to Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan.

Mr Abbas is also due to meet Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in a bid to convince the Islamist group to agree to Egyptian efforts to end the fighting.

Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire last week, saying any deal with Israel must include an end to a blockade of Gaza. (BBC)