After eight days of aerial bombardments, and still no end to the Hamas rocket attacks, Israeli ground forces amassed along the border with the Gaza Strip were given the order to move. Before the advance, thousands of troops – regulars and reservists – were filmed by Israeli army cameras preparing for a mission that their defence minister warned would be neither easy, nor short. Under the cover of evening darkness they crossed the border.
Ahead of them lay a Hamas force one report estimated at 25,000 strong, each one determined to make Gaza a graveyard for the Israelis. As the land-based military machine geared up for the biggest operation in the Gaza Strip in four decades, Israeli jets hit 45 targets from above – among them a fuel plant in Beit Lahiya.