It is the worst violence in Gaza since Israel quit a year ago. At least 22 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier are dead after Israeli tanks and troops pushed their way further into the territory. Earlier, militants from the ruling Hamas movement fired rockets into a major Israeli city for the first time.
The town of Beit Lahiya has been the scene of the heaviest ground fighting in Gaza. The Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has called the raid a crime against humanity.
“It reflects the Israeli plot to reoccupy large territories in the Gaza strip,” he said, “destroy the infrastructure, a helpless attempt to bring down the Palestinian government under the pretext of looking for captured people.”
Israel’s offensive began last week, as it tries to bring home a captured soldier. It maintains there is no intention to reoccupy parts of Gaza long-term. The Palestinian Interior Minister reportedly called on security forces to fight against the Israelis, but most are said to be loyal to the moderate president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.