Israeli troops enter Gaza strip, kill dozens of Hamas cadres


Jerusalem : Israeli troops have killed dozens of Hamas militants during the much-expected ground operation into Gaza, after week-long air-strikes on the coastal strip claimed over 460 Palestinian lives.

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Israeli forces marched into the coastal territory yesterday backed by heavy artillery fire, air and naval bombardment after week-long airstrikes.

Initial local media reports from both Israel and Gaza indicated that IDF troops had killed dozens of Hamas gunmen as they traded heavy fire upon entering the Strip.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak vowed to defend his country from incessant rocket attacks while accepting that it wont be “easy or brief” and would endanger soldiers’ lives.

“The objective is to destroy the Hamas terror infrastructure in the area of operations,”Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson,Major Avital Leibovitch,said. ‘

“We are going to take some of the launch areas used by Hamas.” “To strike a direct and hard blow against the Hamas while increasing the deterrent strength of the IDF, in order to bring about an improved and more stable security situation for residents of Southern Israel over the long term,” the statement explained the objective of the ground offensive.

“We won’t abandon our citizens. The IDF’s job is to defend the home front”, Barak asserted.Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Barak, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Friday night and approved the ground incursion.

A defiant Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan,in a televised speech to the organisation’s al-Aqsa Radio said thatGaza will “become a graveyard” for Israeli soldiers.

“Gaza will not be paved with flowers for you, it will be paved with fire and hell,” Radwan said.