GAZA CONFLICT: ISRAEL EXPANDS GROUND OFFENSIVE

BBC News on July 20, 2014, reported that the Israeli military said the ground offensive had been expanded to destroy a Hamas tunnel network. Excerpts below:

Israel says it has expanded its ground operation against Hamas, with residents in Gaza reporting the heaviest shelling since the conflict began 13 days ago.

In a statement, Israel’s military said “additional forces” had joined “the effort to combat terror” in Gaza.

Four Palestinians died, including two children and the son of a senior Hamas official, in new air strikes on July 20.

Five Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have died since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched the military offensive on 8 July.

Israel says the ground operation is necessary to target a Hamas tunnel network, which it says it could not do only from the air.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said the ground offensive was being expanded “to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens”.

An air strike in the suburb of Shejaiya targeted the house of Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya, killing four people including his son and daughter-in-law, Palestinian doctors said.

Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire involving, among others, Egypt, Qatar, France and the UN, have failed to make any progress.

Hamas rejected an Egypt-brokered ceasefire last week, saying any deal with Israel must include an end to a blockade of Gaza.

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