RAMALLAH, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday condemned Israel for expanding its air, ground and sea military offensive on the Gaza Strip, and urged an immediate end to it.
Abbas said in a statement published by the official state-run news agency "Wafa" that Israel must stop the aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip immediately and be committed to the Egypt-brokered truce deal.
Earlier on Friday, the Israeli army announced that it decided to carry out a group attack on the Gaza Strip aiming at destroying tunnels linking Gaza and Israel, which are believed to have been used by militants to infiltrate into Jewish state for attacks.
So far, 27 Palestinians were killed in the newly-launched ground incursion, including three children, who were killed by a shelling on a home in Northern Gaza, according to Palestinian health officials.
One Israeli soldier was also killed during the early Friday morning operation. The army is reportedly investigating the possibility that he was killed by friendly fire.
Hamas said Israel's decision to start a ground operation in Gaza is an irresponsible and dangerous step.
"The Israeli army will pay a heavy price for such a step," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a press statement, adding Hamas is well prepared for the ground confrontation.
The nod to a limited ground operation into the Gaza Strip territories came around when Israel's bombing offensive against Hamas entered the 12th day, during which more than 260 people were killed and 2,000 injured, many of whom were civilians. At least 27 Palestinians have been killed since late Thursday night when Israel started its ground operation in Gaza, medics said.
On Thursday, shortly after the humanitarian ceasefire window proposed by UN expired, the Islamic movement Hamas and Israel resumed the conflict.
Last Monday, Egypt presented an initiative for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants, led by Hamas. Israel accepted it, but Hamas and Gaza militants rejected it, branding the acceptance of the truce as surrender and saying the deal doesn't meet their substantial demands.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah announced that President Abbas headed on Friday to Turkey to hold meetings with Turkish officials to discuss a truce with Israel.
Before the Turkey visit, Abbas wrapped up a three-day visit to Egypt, where he held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi to discuss how to restore calm in the conflict-ridden Gaza Strip.
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