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Israel ground forces shell Gaza as rocket fire intensifies

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Israel ground forces shell Gaza as rocket fire intensifies

Israeli artillery pounded northern Gaza on Friday in an attempt to destroy a network of militant tunnels inside the territory, the military said, hours after retracting a statement that it had begun a ground assault on the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Early Friday, the Israeli military briefed the press that it had began invading Gaza, reporting that their “air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip”, signalling a significant escalation in the conflict.

But little over an hour later the Israeli army clarified that its troops had not entered Gaza and blamed an “internal communication” error.

An Israeli military spokesman said that while ground forces had taken part in the 40-minute, pre-dawn offensive, none had crossed into the Gaza Strip.

“What we were targeting is an elaborate system of tunnels that spans underneath Gaza, mostly in the north but not limited to, and is a network that the operatives of Hamas use in order to move, in order to hide, for cover,” Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said in a briefing to foreign reporters.

Palestinian civil defense teams take part in rescue works at the rubbles of a building belonging to a Palestinian family after Israeli fighter jets conducted airstrikes in Beit Lahia, Gaza on - Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu

“We refer to (it) as the Metro,” he said, adding that a final assessment on the outcome of the operation was pending.

The latest Israeli shelling of northern Gaza has brought the front lines closer to densely populated civilian areas, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated an invasion could yet be imminent.

 Palestinian civil defense teams take part in rescue works at the rubbles of a building belonging to a Palestinian family  - Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu

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