A fierce battle has erupted in Gaza City as the Israeli army engages in heavy exchanges of fire with Hamas resistance fighters.
The fighting broke out in the vicinity of Gaza City on Monday for the first time since the Israeli military crossed over the border on Saturday, beginning an incursion into the costal sliver.
According to AFP, large explosions and heavy exchanges of fire rocked eastern neighborhoods of Gaza City, as attacks on the densely-populated strip continues for a tenth day.
The Israeli army has reportedly prepared to face strong resistance in the city.
At least 50 Israeli troops have been wounded in the Operation Cast Lead; one has been killed and five others are reported in serious conditions.
Meanwhile, some 551 Palestinians have lost their lives, and at least 2,790 others are wounded — most of whom are civilians.
Despite international calls for an immediate halt to the ongoing crisis in Gaza, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said earlier Monday that the ground incursion would be continued until the objectives are reached.
“Hamas has suffered a very heavy blow, but we have yet to reach the goals we set for ourselves, so the operation continues. International talks are being held simultaneously,” Barak said.
Tel Aviv says through its military campaign, it aims to force Hamas stop its rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Hamas, the democratically-elected government of the strip, is said to agree to stop its retaliatory attacks should Tel Aviv lift its 18-month blockade of the coastal sliver.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since the Hamas movement won a majority in the 2006 Palestinian election and took control of the area in mid-June 2007.