More from the Associated Press:
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of Israeli soldiers backed by tanks invaded the Gaza Strip on Thursday, a military spokesman said, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels used to send militants from the Palestinian territory into Israel.
The high-stakes move was compelled by Israel’s growing exasperation over unrelenting rocket fire and followed the collapse of Egyptian-led efforts to broker a cease-fire. It also came after a failed attempt by 13 militants to infiltrate Israel earlier Thursday through a tunnel under the Gaza-Israel border, only to be stopped by an Israeli strike at the mouth of the tunnel.
The military said the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years was open-ended and would be carried out on several fronts in the coastal strip.
“Our forces, large ground forces accompanied by massive air force support, naval forces and intelligence, are taking over targets in Gaza, operating against tunnels and terror activists and infrastructure,” Israel’s chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz said.
He called on Gaza residents to evacuate areas where the military is operating, warning the “military is operating there with very great force.”