Sources in Israel and Gaza tell us that Israeli troops and tanks are moving forward into Gaza.
Hamas is returning fire “heavily” acording to sources on the ground.
The Israeli government has confirmed that the attack on the ground has commenced.
As many as 10,000 Israeli soldiers were believed to be around Gaza prior to the start of this operation.
An Israeli military spokesman said the ground action will take “days.”
“We have many many targets,” Maj. Avital Leibovich told CNN. “To my estimation, it will be a lengthy operation.” She said the goal of the operation was to take over the areas used by militants to launch rockets against Israel.
“The civilians are not our target, only militants, Hamas militants,” she said.
“The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations,” said Israel Defense Forces Major Leibovitch, confirming that incursions were under way. “We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas.”
Reacting to the incursion, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority Saeb Erakat said: “What this will do is undermine the peace process.” The Palestinian Authority is the government of President Mahmoud Abbas.
We are adding to this report as we lean more….
The New York Times:
Israeli Ground Forces Push Into Gaza
Above: Israeli tanks fire shells toward Gaza as evening falls Saturday.
A small column of Israeli military vehicles, backed by attack helicopters, were seen crossing the border into the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.
See the Fox News Report:
A column of Israeli tanks, some firing their weapons, rolled into the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, a Palestinian witness said, in what appeared to be the beginning of a ground offensive against Islamist Hamas.
The witness, a resident of the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, said the column crossed the boundary fence under darkness and was accompanied by Israeli combat helicopters.
The witness could not immediately say how deep the Israelis had penetrated into Palestinian territory.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Israeli media quoted unconfirmed witness reports suggesting there were incursions under way elsewhere in Gaza.
From The Jerusalem Post
For the first time since the start of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF sent a large number of ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening.
Several hours earlier, the army began to fire artillery shells into the northern part of the Strip.
According to reports, the artillery units were attacking targets in northern Gaza from where Palestinian terrorists had been firing rockets at southern Israel.
Warplanes, gunboats and artillery units blasted more than 40 Hamas targets throughout Saturday, including Hamas’s central intelligence headquarters in Sha’ati, weapons storage facilities, training centers and Hamas leaders’ homes.
Air strikes that had waned during the day gathered pace after dark. One raid hit a mosque in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, killing 14 people and wounding 33, seven critically, according to a Palestinian health official.
Other Palestinian reports claimed that the mosque was hit by an artillery shell.
Israeli troops began moving into Gaza tonight, on the eighth day of their assault on the Hamas-ruled territory, Israel Defense Forces said. Earlier Saturday, the Israelis had begun using ground artillery in addition to the ongoing airstrikes in their assault against Gaza.
From the Associated Press:
Israel’s military says ground forces are crossing the Gaza border in an escalation of Israel‘s week-old offensive against the territory’s militant Hamas rulers.
Israeli TV channels are broadcasting images of troops marching into Gaza after nightfall. The military confirmed a ground operation was under way.
Defense officials say around 10,000 soldiers have massed along the border in recent days.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information.
A text message sent by Hamas’ military wing, Izzedine al-Qassam, said “the Zionists started approaching the trap which our fighters prepared for them.”