Israel presses forward with ground invasion, 21 Palestinian casualties already reported
At least twenty-one Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by airstrikes and artillery fire since Israel launched a ground operation late Thursday, medics said.
Ambulance crews said nine people were killed in the shelling of a home east of Khan Younis. Their bodies were found under the rubble of a residential building.
Among those identified were Hammad Abdulkarim Hammad Abu Lihyeh, 23, Muhammad Abdulfattah Rashad Fayyad, 26, and Mahmoud Muhammad Fayyad, 25, from Khan Younis.
Relatives Bilal Mahmoud Radwan, 23, Munthir Radwan, 22, Ahmad Fawzi Radwan, 23, and Mahmoud Fawzi Radwan, 24, were also killed.
Amal Khader Ibrahim Dabbur, 40, Ismail Youssif Taha Qassem, 59, Nassim Mahmoud Nassir and Karam Mahmoud Nassir were killed in Beit Hanoun and at least 25 injured in heavy shelling.
In Rafah three people were killed and 11 others wounded by Israeli forces, who fired foul-smelling gas during the operation.
In the Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiyeh, Rani Abu Tawileh was killed and 12 members of his family injured in heavy bombings.
On the ground, witnesses reported gun battles breaking out east of the southern city of Khan Younis, with military sources confirming it was one of the areas in which the troops were operating.
An Israeli military spokeswoman told AFP ground and air forces had attacked at least 36 targets in Gaza since the incursion was launched.
Over 260 Palestinians have now been killed in Gaza since Israel began it's military assault on the coastal territory last week.
One Israeli soldier was reported killed early Friday and five others injured.
"What the occupier Israel failed to achieve through its air and sea raids, it will not be able to achieve with a ground offensive. It is bound to fail," Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said from his exile in Doha.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza earlier said "Israel will pay a high price" for launching the ground operation and that his movement "is ready for the confrontation".
President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel must stop its ground operation, warning it would lead to "more bloodshed" and complicate efforts to end the conflict in the enclave.
Israel approved the call-up of another 18,000 reservists, taking the total number approved to 65,000 for an operation aimed at protecting Israeli lives and striking "a significant blow to Hamas's terror infrastructure," the army said.
"I regret that despite my repeated urgings, and those of many regional and world leaders together, an already dangerous conflict has now escalated even further," UN chief Ban Ki-moon said, urging Israel to "do far more" to spare Palestinian non-combatants.
The majority of those killed in Gaza are civilians, according to local and international rights groups.