JERUSALEM, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Israeli navy commandos raided Gaza early Sunday in a first ground assault on the strip, stepping up the six-day offensive hours after the UN urged a ceasefire.
It is the first time the Israeli military acknowledges it entered the Gaza Strip since the deadly air campaign, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, started last Tuesday.
A military spokesperson told Xinhua that the site of the incursion "was used as launching site for long-ranged attacks against Israeli civilians."
So far, the mission has seen fire exchanges and four lightly wounded soldiers, but all troops returned home safely, the spokesperson said.
Gaza militants have fired dozens of long-distance rockets at Israel, reaching as far as Tel Aviv, and Caesarea in the north. Since the operation began, more than 800 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel. So far, no Israeli has been killed.
The naval commando raid comes as Israeli forces intensified its attacks on Gaza on Saturday, leaving 56 people dead, the heaviest death toll since the beginning of the operation, according to a statement by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The death toll of the Palestinians now stands at 165, while at least 780 others were wounded, according to the health ministry and Gaza-based Al Meazan Center for Human Rights. The U.N. estimates that some 77 percent of the casualties were civilians.
On Sunday, the military said it dispersed leaflets above the northern Gaza Strip, urging the residents to evacuate their homes as the army prepares for the heaviest bombing of the area yet.
The leaflets, dropped from the air and sent out also by recorded voice and text messages, warn the residents of Beit Lahiya to stay away from the area.
"The civilians are requested to evacuate their residences immediately and move by 12:00 PM today," the leaflet said. "The IDF's campaign is to be short and temporary. Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware."
A senior military official told Israel's Ynet news website that Hamas launching sites are operating underground this area. "These underground targets can be reached only by extremely heavy bombardment, thus the evacuation," he said.
"We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructure is extremely unsafe," Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the military spokesman, said in a statement. "Our campaign will continue as long as Hamas persists with firing rockets at Israel," he added.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a statement that urges for calm and peace talks. The statement called on Israel and Hamas to reinstate the truce agreement which ended the previous round of fighting in 2012.
However, Israeli leaders said they are determined to continue pounding Hamas sites until the rocket fire towards Israel ceases.
"No international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organization which calls for our destruction," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference on Friday.
GAZA, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The commander of the Gaza Strip police, together with 17 other Palestinians, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday night, medics said, making it the worst attack since Israel's aerial offensive on the coastal enclave began earlier on Tuesday.
A Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza said that Police General Tayseer al-Batsh was critically wounded and brought to Shiffa Hospital, "but doctors failed to rescue his life." Full story
JERUSALEM, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military warned residents in northern Gaza Strip late on Saturday night to evacuate their homes "for their own safety," local media reported.
"The evacuation allows greater freedom of operation in the area, " a senior military officer was quoted by Ha'aretz daily as saying, adding that most of the rockets fired into Israel were launched from Gaza's north. He said the military planned a massive assault to the area, as Operation Protective Edge entered into the fifth day.Full story
UNITED NATIONS, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council unanimously called on Saturday for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza strip. "The Security Council members called for de-escalation of the situation, restoration of calm, and reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire," said Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana of Rwanda, this month's president of the Security Council, in a statement read out to reporters outside council chambers.
The 2012 cease-fire referred to in the statement was brokered by Egypt, which served as a guarantor of the Palestinians.Full story
BEIRUT, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Three rockets fired from Lebanon landed in Israel on Saturday night, incurring Israel's shelling against southern Lebanon, the National News Agency reported.
The rockets were launched towards the settlement of Naharaya in southern Israel, which was immediately responded with Israel's shelling on the Zebkine Valley, located between the towns of Zebkine and Majdal-Zun in southern Lebanon, causing material damages. Israeli warplanes and helicopters were also roaming over Lebanon's Western Sector villages.Full story
CAIRO, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al- Sisi held talks on Saturday with visiting Quartet's Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair on the efforts to stop the ongoing Israeli strikes on Gaza, official MENA news agency reported.
The meeting reviewed the escalating situation in the occupied territories, MENA quoted presidential spokesman Ehab Badawy as saying.Full story