An Israeli soldier has been killed in Gaza on the first night of the IDF’s ground operation in the Palestinian territory.
Sergeant Eitan Barak, a 20-year-old from Hertzliya, died during the operation.
Israel said it had killed 14 terrorists overnight as it targeted Hamas’ network of tunnels in the Gaza Strip.
Explaining the latest stage of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF said it had decided to send ground troops “following 10 days of Hamas attacks against Israel by land, air, and sea – and after repeated rejections of offers to de-escalate the situation”.
“A large IDF force of infantry, tanks, artillery, combat engineers, and field intelligence is entering the Gaza Strip.
“The force is supported by the Israel Air Force, Navy, and other Israeli security agencies.”
In the early hours of Thursday, more than a dozen Palestinian terrorists armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles infiltrated Israel through a tunnel dug under the Gaza border.
Following the operation, Palestinian sources reported heavy clashes along the eastern border and in northern towns including Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya.
Egypt’s foreign minister was reported as saying Hamas was to blame for the latest escalation. Sameh Shoukry said the group should have accepted a ceasefire to avert “the possible deaths of Palestinian civilians”.