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#280065 - 4th Jan 2009 6:18am Israeli Ground Forces Cross Border Into Gaza Strip
_jase_
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Thousands of Israeli troops backed by columns of tanks and helicopter gunships launched a ground offensive in Gaza on Saturday night, with officials saying they expected a lengthy fight in the densely populated territory after eight days of punishing airstrikes failed to halt militant rocket attacks on Israel.

Israeli defense officials said that an estimated 30 Hamas militants had been killed in the incursion so far, though precise numbers are hard to pin down.

Israeli leaders said the operation, known as Cast Lead, was meant to quell militant rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel.

The United Nations, meanwhile, scheduled emergency consultations Saturday night on the escalation, but the United States blocked approval of a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel.

"We are not war hungry, but we shall not ... allow a situation where our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. "It will not be easy or short, but we are determined."

Barak described Israel as "peace seekers."

"We have restrained ourselves for a long time but now is the time to do what needs to be done," he said.

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#280509 - 5th Jan 2009 1:47am Israel continues Gaza attacks [Re: ]
_jase_
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Israel continues Gaza attacks


ISRAELI troops are engaged in fierce battles with Palestinian fighters tonight with reports of deaths on both sides.

Israel says one soldier has been killed and 31 wounded by Palestinian gunfire, mortar bombs, or mines while Palestine estimates 41 dead, most of whom were civilians.

Gaza City is tonight wreathed in billowing, black smoke as tonight as Israeli tanks continued to pour shells and machinegun-fire into suspected militant positions as Hamas fighters fought back with mortars and rockets.

Israel's nine-day offensive on Gaza is estimated to have killed over 500 Palestinians.

European Union foreign policy chiefs launched a mission to seek a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip but acknowledged they faced a difficult task persuading the parties to stop fighting.

“We don’t intend neither to occupy Gaza nor to crush Hamas, but to crush terror. And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson. They are now getting it,” Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview on the ABC News program “This Week”.

In London yesterday there were clashes outside the Israeli Embassy between protesters and police wearing riot gear.

Police made several arrests, claiming protesters made repeated attempts to break through the barriers and throw missiles outside the embassy in south Kensington.

Earlier, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the UK and across the world to demonstrate against the bombing of Gaza- burning the Israeli flag and throwing fireworks as the military action against Hamas was stepped up.

But last night Israel’s military said ground forces were crossing the Gaza border, in an expansion of Israel’s week-old offensive against Hamas.

Israeli TV channels broadcast images of troops marching into Gaza after nightfall.

It was reported that defence officials said around 10,000 soldiers have massed along the border in recent days.

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