Israeli troops have entered the Gaza Strip as part of the ongoing military operation against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, the military said on Friday.
“Israeli planes and troops on the ground are carrying out an attack in the Gaza Strip,” the army said in a brief message.
Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus confirmed to AFP that Israeli soldiers had entered the Palestinian enclave, without giving any numbers.
IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 13, 2021
Rocket barrages from Gaza swiftly followed.
Although the statement gave no further details, Israeli military affairs correspondents who are briefed regularly by the armed forces told Reuters it was not a ground invasion, and that troops were firing artillery from Israel’s side of the border.
Residents of northern Gaza, near the Israeli frontier, said they had seen no sign of ground troops inside the enclave but reported heavy artillery fire and dozens of air strikes.
Netanyahu: Campaign will take time
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the campaign “will take more time”.
Israeli officials said Hamas, Gaza’s most powerful militant group, must be dealt a strong deterring blow before any ceasefire.
Earlier Thursday, Israel pounded Gaza and deployed extra troops and tanks to the border as Palestinians fired barrages of rockets back, with the death toll in the enclave on the fourth day of conflict climbing to over 100.
“We are ready and we will continue to prepare ourselves for various scenarios,” the army spokesman said earlier, specifying that a ground invasion was “one of the scenarios”.
“Any ground incursion in any part of the Gaza Strip will lead to an increase in the number of dead and prisoners from the enemy side,” warned the armed branch of Hamas which continued to launch rockets towards southern Israel.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll since Monday had climbed to 103 Palestinians before the new offensive began, including 27 children and 11 women, with 530 people wounded.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher.
Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy.