Israel-Gaza conflict: Death toll passes 260 as Israel launches first ground offensive

A total of 27 Palestinians were reported to have been killed as Israel Defence Forces lose their first soldier

A total of 27 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have died after the Israel Defence Forces launched their first ground operation in Gaza on Thursday night.

According to reports from health officials in Gaza, 27 Palestinians were killed as Israeli forces intensified their campaign against Hamas’ leaders, in reaction to a barrage of rockets aimed at Israeli cities.

There were a number of reports of Palestinian civilian fatalities, with four Palestinians from the same family being killed in an attack on the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, and five Palestinians, including a five-month-old baby, dying as a result of tank fire in the southern town of Rafah.

The death of the Israeli soldier is the first since Israel’s campaign against Hamas began 11 days ago.

The news of the fatalities from last night’s offensive takes the total number of people to have been killed during the conflict to 269, with a reported 267 Palestinians and two Israelis having died so far.

An Israeli missile hits Palestinian buildings in Gaza City An Israeli missile hits Palestinian buildings in Gaza City

The Israeli ground operation, which began late on Thursday night, saw the Israel Defence Forces mobilise ground units and tanks in an offensive that aimed to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels that, Israeli officials claim, were being used to launch attacks on Israeli targetss.

Earlier on Thursday, 13 heavily armed Hamas militants had tried to sneak into Israel through such a tunnel, but were stopped by an air strike after they emerged some 250 metres inside Israel.

Israeli forces entering Gaza

 

Following the offensive, the Israel Defence Forces' Twitter account announced that they had “neutralized” 14 'terrorists' and destroyed 20 rocket launchers, carried out nine strikes on tunnels & hit a total of 103 terror targets.

Reports since have said that 17 militants were killed in exchanges of fire and 13 more were captured after surrendering.

Brigadier General Moti Almoz said, "there were a number of points of friction through the night" and that 50 rockets had been fired on Israel during the offensive, taking the number of rockets to have hit Israel in the past two weeks up to 1,500.

The Israel Defence Forces also announced their first fatality of the conflict, Sergeant Eitan Barak, 20,  yet it is still unclear as to the circumstances behind his death.

Hamas claim that they had killed the soldier after his unit was ambushed in Gaza’s northern town of Beit Lahiya.

However, reports from Israeli media say that the casualty was likely to have been caused by friendly fire between two Israeli units.

Israel’s chief military spokesman Brigadier General Moti Almoz told Army Radio that the death was being investigated.

Read More Stories: Baby killed by tank as IDF begins ground offensive
Beaten Palestinian-American teenager returns to Florida
Uefa bans Israel from hosting matches during conflict
Robert Fisk: Medical charity likens work to 'patching up torture victims in an open-air prison
Voices: Why I'm burning my Israeli passport

In the wake of the offensive, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights released figures that estimated more than 80 per cent of the 260 Palestinian victims to have been killed so far were civilians.

They also reported that a further 1,920 Palestinians had been wounded as a result of the conflict that began on 8 July.

Video: Operation aimed to halt rocket launches

The ground attack is the first to be condoned by the Israeli government, who have previously been reluctant to  launch ground attacks on Gaza for fear of casualties to their armed forces.

However, the increase in the number of rockets being launched by Hamas, has seen public opinion move to support further air strikes and a call for an Israeli military presence on the ground in Gaza.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Friday morning that the Israeli government were "preparing for the possibility" of "widening their ground operation."

Israeli soldiers seen along the border with Gaza Israeli soldiers seen along the border with Gaza

He told reporters before meeting to discuss last night's operation that his military were "preparing accordingly" for similar offensives in the future.

The UN secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon voiced his regret that Israel had carried out the offensive.

Speaking to press at the United Nations Headquarters on Thursday,  he said: "I regret that despite my urgings, and of many regional and world leaders together, an already dangerous conflict has now escalated even further.

"I urge Israel to do far more to stop civilian casualties. There can be no military solution to this conflict."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all