Jul 13, 2014, 6:45 PM
News Code: 2721162
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Israel launches first ground offensive on Gaza

Gaza City, July 13, IRNA -- Israel launched a ground offensive on the northern Gaza Strip Sunday, the first since it initiated air raids on Gaza, as Palestinian deaths continue to mount.

The navy commandos' brief incursion - which ignored a United Nations call for a ceasefire - targeted a rocket launcher site, according to Israeli public radio.

The armed branch of Hamas confirmed that Israeli troops had exchanged gunfire with Palestinian fighters.

Thousands of residents in northern Gaza have fled their homes, after a warning from Israel military that they should leave "for their own safety".

Israel says it plans to step up its offensive against Hamas in Gaza over the next 24 hours in an effort to stop missiles being fired into Israel.

It has been massing military hardware and troops close to the border with northern Gaza.

On Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane bombed the home of Gaza's police chief and damaged a nearby mosque, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50.

It was the deadliest single attack during the five-day conflict, which has now claimed 165 Palestinian lives and left more than 1,000 injured.