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Israeli ground troops deployed near Gaza border

Israel, after saying ground troops were attacking in the Gaza Strip on Friday, later said the forces, while involved in strikes against the enclave, were not inside the strip.
Airstrike on Beit Lahiya, Gaza

The Israeli military is now using ground troops in its operations against the Gaza Strip. 

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced just after midnight Friday that its “air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip.” 

The IDF later said, “There are currently no IDF ground troops inside the Gaza strip. IDF air and ground forces are carrying out strikes on targets in the Gaza strip,” the Times of Israel reported.

The move follows several days of Israeli airstrikes against the Palestinian enclave as well as Hamas firing rockets into Israel. At least 103 Palestinians have been killed in the airstrikes, including 27 children and eight women, Palestinian officials said. Seven people have been killed in Israel by the rockets, also including women and children, plus a soldier.

Israel deployed troops near the Gaza border Thursday and called up 9,000 reserve soldiers for active duty. 

Hamas said it was open to a conditional cease-fire Wednesday, but Israel rejected this. Egyptian efforts to broker a truce Thursday have also not yielded any results yet. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to inflict heavy damage on Hamas and allied groups in Gaza in remarks early Friday

“I said that we would exact a very heavy price from Hamas and the other terrorist organizations,” said Netanyahu. 

The present conflict began this week amid tensions in Jerusalem. There has also been widespread communal violence in Israeli cities between Jews and Arabs that continued Thursday night

The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately comment further on the ground operation, and it is unclear if it amounts to a full-scale incursion into Gaza. Rockets from the strip into Israel were also continuing to be fired. 

A Hamas spokesman said Thursday that it would respond forcefully to any Israeli attack by land. 

“Any ground invasion on any part of the Gaza Strip will be, by God, an opportunity for us to increase our killing and capturing of the enemy,” the spokesman said, according to the Hamas-affiliated Safa news outlet.