On Thursday night in Gaza, Israel launched a ground offensive into the Palestinian territory after weeks of exchanging rocket fire with Hamas, the governing body and US-classified terrorist organization in Gaza.
The decision was taken after ten days of military operations against Gaza, in which over 100 Palestinians had been killed in air raids. Most notably, an Israeli battleship off the coast killed four boys playing on the beach, and appeared to continue to target them even as they ran away.
The US has urged caution in Israel's actions in order to avoid increasing civilian casualties, calling for Israel to carry through a 'precise' operation that only targets Hamas militants.
Condemnation for Israel's actions came quickly from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who accused Israel of ignoring calls for restraint. "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," he said.
It was Hamas' rejection of a truce brokered between Israel and Egypt that led to the ground assault, which had been building up over the past week and a half. The truce, which didn't include a Hamas representative during its formation, called for a ceasefire and a return to the 2012 standard of 'quiet for quiet.'
Hamas called for Israel to remove its siege on the Gaza Strip, something that Israel did not acknowledge.
The aim of Israel's invasion is to increase the buffer zone between Gaza City and Israel, increasing the distance that Hamas-fired rockets would have to travel. The rockets themselves are a hodgepodge of materials and have limited range.
At the behest of the UN, the two sides observed a five-hour cessation of violence, allowing for people to find safe refuge. As soon as the five hours was up, however, the violence continued, with rockets falling into Israel and bombing campaigns running through Gaza.
So far, over 260 Palestinians have been killed, with one Israeli Defense Force soldier being a victim of reported friendly fire. The UN has estimated that three-quarters of all Palestinian casualties have been civilians rather than militants, and about 50 of those have been children.
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