During its latest round of airstrikes, Thursday evening, soldiers killed seven small children (four of whom were four years old). Israeli officials have flatly rejected a ten-year truce offered by Palestinian resistance groups. The military announced, late Thursday night, that hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers have now began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Power was cut to the entire region, as close to two million Palestinian civilians huddle in the dark, reporting explosions, flares and Israeli airstrikes hitting the northern and eastern parts of the Strip.
An Israeli military official issued a statement which read:
‘Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.’
The last time Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, in January of 2009, Israeli troops killed over 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including hundreds of small children. Many of those killed were blown to pieces by artillery shells and missiles.
Palestinians in Gaza have no army, and no official government, as the have lived under illegal Israeli military occupation since 1967. In 2006, following the election of the Hamas party to run the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, Israeli military forces sealed the borders, creating what many human rights groups have termed â€˜the largest open-air prison on earthâ€™.
During Thursdayâ€™s invasion into Gaza, artillery, infantry, naval forces, air forces and hundreds of tanks are being deployed as troops move into the area, according to Israeli military officials.
It is one of the most densely populated places on Earth.
Earlier Thursday, Israel dropped leaflets in the streets of northern Gaza ordering 100,000 Palestinians to leave their homes. The leaflet drops were followed by increased aerial bombardment in an area that has already seen heavy civilian casualties and destruction from Israeli bombs.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians left their homes and walked southward to try to take shelter in United Nations schools. But, in the last major ground invasion of Gaza, in 2009, Israeli forces attacked UN schools with artillery shells and white phosphorus, a weapon whose use is banned in civilian areas.
Related: Thousands of Palestinians Seek Refuge at UNRWA Schools