Israel Deploys Ground Troops Into Gaza

Israel deployed ground troops inside Gaza for the first time today to raid a rocket launching site as reports come in of another 52 deaths inside the beseiged territory.

Four Israeli soldiers were hurt in clashes during the brief incursion to destroy a rocket launching site in northern Gaza, the military said. It said they have returned to Israeli territory.

It was the first time that Israeli ground troops are known to have entered Gaza in the current offensive. But the operation was carried out by special forces and did not appear to be the beginning of a broad ground offensive.

Last night Israel announced it would hit northern Gaza “with great force’’ to prevent rocket attacks.

Israel has carried out more than 1200 air strikes in the past week to try to diminish Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israel, and the chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, said last night there would be more strikes, especially in northern Gaza near the Israeli border.

“We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area,” he said.

The latest round of attacks has raising the toll from Israeli strikes on Gaza to 157.

Palestinian militants also fired more rocket salvos as both sides dismissed calls for a truce.

Israel continues to build up troops along the border ahead of a possible invasion, warning Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate.

The UN Security Council unanimously urged Israel and Hamas to respect “international humanitarian laws” and stop the loss of life.

The 15-member council urged a return to “calm, and restitution of the November 2012 ceasefire’’, referring to Gaza’s last full-scale conflict.

Israel’s aerial campaign has produced ongoing strikes, including a hit on a centre for the handicapped and another that killed two nephews of former Hamas premier Ismail Haniya.

Rockets fired from Gaza targeted Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with some hitting two southern West Bank cities, but so far causing no Israeli deaths.