Israeli Ground Troops Attack Gaza as Palestinian Death Toll Tops 100

Palestinian first responders search through the rubble of a family's home in Beit Lahia, Gaza following Israeli bombing on May 13, 2021. The body of a child--one of at least 27 killed by Israeli bombing--was recovered from the home's ruins. (Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Andalou Agency via Getty Images)

Israeli Ground Troops Attack Gaza as Palestinian Death Toll Tops 100

"We will continue to do what we're doing with great intensity," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Defense Minister Benny Gantz vowed that "Gaza will burn." 

Israel further escalated its latest assault on Gaza early on Friday as ground troops joined warplanes in attacking targets in the besieged strip where health authorities said the death toll from over four days of bombing has now surpassed 100.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced shortly after midnight local time that "IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip." An Israeli colonel who initially told the New York Times that IDF troops were attacking inside Gaza later clarified that no soldiers had entered the strip, raising the possibility of artilley or tank fire against the territory.

IDF officials said Thursday that over 600 targets in Gaza have been bombed by Israeli warplanes during Operation Guardian of the Walls, while Israeli authorities said more than 1,750 rockets have been launched by Palestinian militants from Gaza into Israel.

While Israel's air defenses, including the U.S.-Israeli Iron Dome system, have destroyed the vast majority of incoming rockets, seven people inside the country have been killed, including an IDF soldier hit by an anti-tank missile and an elderly woman who suffered a fall while attempting to reach a bomb shelter.

As was the case during Israel's last three major assaults on Gaza, Palestinians are suffering exponentially more deaths than Israelis. Gaza health officials said late Thursday that the relentless Israeli onslaught has killed at least 109 Palestinians, including 28 children.

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened that "Gaza will burn" as Israeli military commanders planned for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, the first since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. More than 2,100 Gazans--mostly civilians, including over 500 children--died during that war, while 67 Israeli troops and six civilians were killed by Palestinians.

Early on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Hamas, the democratically elected government of Gaza whose armed wing is responsible for most of the rocket attacks on Israel, will pay a "very heavy price" for its militant resistance.

"We will continue to do what we're doing with great intensity," the politically embattled Israeli leader said. "The last word has not yet been uttered, and this operation will continue as long as necessary."

Speaking of the escalating violence between Israeli Jews and Arab Israelis throughout the nation, Netanyahu added that "we will give complete backing to the police, the Border Police, and the rest of the security forces to restore law and order to the cities of Israel--we will not tolerate anarchy."

Israel's escalation came amid a wave of global demonstrations of solidarity with Palestine and against what critics call Israeli war crimes, including the bombing of civilian infrastructure such as high-rise apartment towers and other homes.

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