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Israeli military says it has launched ground offensive in Gaza

Thursday - 7/17/2014, 6:10pm  ET

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Israel has launched a large-scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, escalating a 10-day military operation to try to destroy Hamas' weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory's border with Israel..

The Israeli military describes the operation as open-ended, saying the objective is to strike a "significant blow to Hamas' terror infrastructure."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office says he instructed the army to go ahead after Hamas rejected an Egyptian cease-fire plan earlier in the week and after Israeli forces stopped Hamas militants as they tried to infiltrate into Israel through a tunnel from Gaza earlier today. The statement says Israel "is obliged to protect its citizens" from what it describes as "relentless aggression by Hamas."

Hamas officials had no immediate comment.

It's the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.

The operation followed a brief truce earlier today in which Israel held fire to allow Gazans to stock up on food and other necessities after being largely holed up at home since the conflict began last month.

%@AP Links

178-a-17-(Mark Regev, Israeli government spokesman, in AP interview)-"President Mahmoud Abbas"-Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev says Hamas is prolonging the conflict with Israel and is responsible for all the ensuing violence. ((note cut length)) (17 Jul 2014)

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