The offensive began on Thursday night with the aim of destroying the weapons arsenal, infrastructure and underground tunnels used by Hamas, Israeli officials claimed.
An Israeli soldier and at least 27 Palestinians – including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman – have already been killed in the operation, according to Palestinian officials. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “My instructions are to prepare for the possibility of significantly widening the ground operation, and the military is preparing accordingly.”
Mr Netanyahu said a ground assault was the only way to infiltrate Hamas’ underground network. The United Nations has said it is stepping up emergency aid to Gaza, where Israel’s military offensive has worsened water shortages and raised fears of increased sewage contamination and water-borne diseases.