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Israeli Forces Expand Gaza Ground Offensive

  • VOA News

Israeli ground forces backed by helicopter gunships have pushed deep into the Gaza Strip, effectively cutting the coastal Palestinian territory in half.

Medics say more than 30 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed on Sunday as Israeli forces and Hamas militants fight in the streets.

The Israeli army confirmed the first death of a soldier in the Gaza offensive. It also said 30 of its soldiers have been wounded.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a televised interview (on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos") that Israel does not want to reoccupy the Gaza Strip. He said his government only wants to stop Hamas's rocket fire into Israel.

The Israeli military said its warplanes targeted more than 15 sites today, including rocket launching areas and smuggling tunnels.

Despite the Israeli offensive, Hamas militants continue to fire rockets into Israel, with more than 30 rockets striking southern Israel today.



A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (Mark Regev) told al-Jazeera television that Israel will continue the assault until a solution is reached that will provide long-term peace.

But Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN's Late Edition program that the humanitarian conditions in Gaza are too dire and that Israeli attacks must stop.

Israel launched the ground offensive late Saturday after a week of air strikes on the territory.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to Israel's ground operation. But the U.N. Security Council has not been able to reach an agreement on the situation. France's U.N. ambassador (Jean-Maurice Ripert) said there are "strong convergences" among the Council's 15 members about the need for a fully respected cease-fire.

Officials say more than 500 Palestinians have been killed and more than two thousand others wounded since Israel began its offensive. The United Nations estimates about a quarter of those have been civilians. To limit civilian casualties, Israeli aircraft have been dropping leaflets over Gaza warning people to leave their homes before air strikes are launched.

The director general (Hassan Khalaf) of Gaza's main hospital (Al-Shifa) says electricity has been cut off and that there is not enough diesel fuel to keep the generators running.

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