The Israeli military on Friday announced the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip for the first time since the country started aerial bombardments of the Palestinian city.
In a statement on Friday, the army said troops had entered Gaza to battle militants, destroy weapons and search for evidence about the missing hostages held by Hamas.
The announcement did not appear to be the beginning of an expected ground invasion of Gaza. Israel has been massing troops along the Gaza border since last Saturday’s deadly incursion by Hamas militants.
The media had earlier reported that thousands of Palestinians started fleeing from Northern Gaza to Southern Gaza for refuge after Israel issued a warning for them to evacuate before an expected ground offensive against Hamas in the ongoing war.
It had also been reported that Israel’s military warned 1.1million people living in Northern Gaza to evacuate their homes as Israel is set to ramp up its retaliatory offensive against Hamas following the group’s sudden terror attacks last Saturday.
Gaza is already one of the world’s most densely populated pieces of land, with more than 2 million people crammed into 140 square miles.
The Israeli’s evacuation warning came after Hamas gunmen burst through the heavily militarised border around the Gaza Strip and killed over 1,300 people in neighbouring Israeli settlements – most of them civilians.