Dozens Dead in Gaza as Netanyahu Warns Significant Widening of Assault

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans to "significantly widen" Israel's ground operations in Gaza amidst news that 27 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier have been killed since troops entered the territory yesterday.

Palestinian officials say the newly dead include two children, a baby, and a 70-year-old woman, Reuters reports, bringing the Palestinian death toll up to 298 since conflicts began anew July 8.

Netanyahu told reporters at an emergency cabinet meeting that he put troops on the ground after "exhausting other options":

"We chose to start this operation after we exhausted other options and reached the conclusion that without it we could pay a much higher price," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters before a special cabinet session at Tel Aviv military headquarters. "The main goal is to restore quiet."

"My instructions...to the Israeli army, with the approval of the security cabinet, is to prepare for the possibility of a widening, a significant widening of the ground operation."

Israel says its invasion is in response to the rocket attacks Hamas has launched recently, and that it aims to destroy tunnels from Gaza that Hamas uses to travel into Israel. "Since there is no way to deal with the tunnels only from the air, our soldiers are doing it now from the ground," Netanyahu said at the same cabinet meeting, the Jerusalem Post reports.

It's unclear what a widening of Israel's ground operations might mean. Many Palestinian families have fled their homes after receiving evacuation notices from the IDF, but some have complained they have nowhere else to go. "Since the Israelis started this 11 days ago, they have been telling us to leave. Where our we supposed to go — to the Gaza Sheraton? Or take a hike in the forest?" Al Madhoun, a Gaza resident, told CNN.

The Israeli troops on the ground do not appear to have softened Hamas's resolve. "Netanyahu is killing our children and will pay the price," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, according to Reuters. "The ground invasion doesn't frighten us and the occupation army will sink in Gaza's mud."

[Image via AP]