Israeli ground forces have pushed deep into the Gaza Strip, splitting it into three, and surrounding the main city with heavy armour and troops. Eight days of ferocious land, sea and air bombardments failed to stop the Hamas rocket attacks which had sparked the offensive. So the tanks were ordered in.Medical sources said up to 50 Palestinians – most of them civilians – died as tank shells and machine-gun fire rained on suspected Hamas positions. Israel confirmed the death of one soldier, and flew more than 30 wounded out of battle for treatment. It is the most serious Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades of conflict. Hamas resistance fighters have vowed to make Gaza a “graveyard” for the thousands of Israeli troops. The Israeli president Shimon Peres told American TV they do not want to occupy Gaza, nor crush Hamas, but to stamp out terror.