Washington, Jan 4: Israeli ground forces moved across the border into the northern Gaza Strip killing 30 Hamas militants during the operation, after week-long airstrikes claimed more than 450 Palestinian lives.
Israeli troops moved across the border into the Gaza Strip late on Saturday, Jan 3 night in an escalation of the weeklong offensive against Hamas, FOX News reported.
Israeli defense officials said that an estimated 30 Hamas militants had been killed in the incursion so far, though precise numbers are hard to pin down.
"A few hours ago, Israeli ground forces entered the Gaza Strip as part of operation Cast Lead against the Hamas terrorists and their affiliates and infrastructure in Gaza," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
"So far, the Israeli Defense Forces have dealt an unprecedented heavy blow to Hamas. In order to complete their mission we now launched the ground operation," he said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations scheduled emergency consultations on Saturday, Jan 3 night on the escalation, where Security Council members were working on a non-binding text to address the situation.
"We are not war hungry, but we shall not ... allow a situation where our towns, villages and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined," Barak said.
Barak described Israel as "peace seekers. We have restrained ourselves for a long time but now is the time to do what needs to be done."
Israel launched its aerial campaign a week ago in a bid to halt weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. That offensive dealt a heavy blow to Hamas, but failed to halt the rocket fire.&13;&13;