Early on Friday, Israel stepped up its ground offensive pounding targets with artillery fire and using tanks and infantry to battle Hamas fighters, Reuters reports, Twenty-three Palestinians, Israeli soldier killed in Gaza ground offensive. Palestinian Health officials confirmed that 23 Palestinians have been killed since the ground invasion started on Thursday, While Israel confirmed one soldier was killed in fighting. A video clip released by the military showed six tanks rolling through Gaza after a border fence was opened and two long rows of foot soldiers. Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Motti Almoz said, “We are using a very high level of fire power and artillery. A great number of soldiers are in action in the Gaza Strip, soldiers are overtaking their targets, tunnels, Hamas targets.” Almoz said one soldier had been killed and several wounded in fighting concentrated in several areas in the north and south of the territory, Israeli media reported. The soldier was only the second casualty in the eleven days of fighting which spilled into a land offensive late Thursday. The grand total since fighting began on July 8 comes to 251 Palestinian soldiers and civilians dead. Israel began the air and sea offensive in response to increasing rocket fire, more than 100 a day,from Gaza militants into Israel. A military spokesman said on Friday that 20 more rockets were fired at Israel. In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said, “”The directive for ground action was approved by the security cabinet after Israel agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, whereas Hamas rejected it and continued firing rockets at Israeli cities.” The fighting between Israel and Palestine is the worst its been in two years prompting the United Nations Security Council to meet Friday to discuss the developments. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke after the announcement of the ground assault implored Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian deaths. On Friday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will visit the Middle East to try to defuse the crisis and discuss a European mission on the Gaza Israel border according to a diplomatic source Thursday.
Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Obama administration accused Israel on Thursday of failing to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza during cross border attacks. As the Associate Press reports, Gaza crisis: Obama administration accuses Israel of not protecting civilians, the State Department said the high civilian death toll in Gaza has been heartbreaking as three more children were killed on Thursday along with the four boys killed on a Gaza beach a day earlier due to Israeli strikes. However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also criticized Hamas militants who are still firing rockets and mortars into Israel prolonging the violence in the Mideast. Psaki said, “I don’t think we’ve made any secret about our strong concern about the actions of Hamas, the indiscriminate rocket attacks, the targeting of civilians. And that concern remains.” With regards to the Gaza beach attack that killed four cousins on Wednesday, Psaki said,”The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed. We will continue to underscore that point to Israel.” In a statement late Thursday, the state department said that Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated U.S. concerns about civilian casualties. In addition, Netanyahu describe the threat Hamas tunnels pose to Israel and Kerry reaffirmed strong U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Kerry also stressed the need to restore the 2012 ceasefire and avoid further escalation. On Thursday, Kerry spoke to top diplomats in Cairo and the Qatari capital Doha to negotiate an end to the conflict entering its eleventh day. The conflict intensified Thursday as thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks entered the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket-firing abilities and tunnels.