Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers.
The assault opens a new, potentially extended and bloodier stage in the conflict following a 10-day Israeli campaign of more than 2,000 airstrikes against Gaza that had failed to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities.
The government said its goal is to stop rocket attacks, destroy the network of Hamas tunnels into Israel and weaken Hamas militarily. But there are calls from hard-liners in Israel to completely crush Hamas and drive it from power in Gaza. That could mean a longer operation with the danger of mounting casualties in a conflict that has already seen at least 265 Palestinians killed in Gaza, around a quarter of them children.
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