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Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza Strip

Two Israeli flares loose their light power as two others light up the sky over the northern part of the Gaza Strip. (Jim Hollander/EPA)

Two Israeli flares loose their light power as two others light up the sky over the northern part of the Gaza Strip. (Jim Hollander/EPA)

Israeli forces launched a new phase in the conflict with Gaza Thursday night when they began a major ground offensive. Follow this live blog for the latest updates.

Israel withdraws diplomatic mission from Turkey

Israel is withdrawing much of its diplomatic mission to Turkey, Ynet News reports:

Israel said it was reducing its diplomatic delegation in Turkey to the ‘minimum required’ on Friday after violent pro-Palestinian protests which it linked to Ankara’s public criticism of the Jewish state.

The Foreign Ministry said Turkish police had failed to provide adequate protection for Israel’s embassy and its consulate in Istanbul in a ‘blatant breach of diplomatic regulations’ and that envoys’ families were being repatriated.

Before the announcement, Turkey’s foreign minister ‘vehemently’ condemned Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza. Using his Twitter account, Ahmet Davutoglu said the ground operation is testing ‘the conscience of humanity.’

Netanyahu sees widening ground war

Israel’s prime minister says he has ordered the military to prepare for a “significant expansion” of its ground operation against Gaza militants, the AP reports.

Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that the military has been instructed to deliver a blow to the Hamas tunnel network, which it could not do “only from the air.”

Israeli tanks and troops moved into Gaza late Thursday, following a 10-day campaign of more than 2,000 airstrikes that had failed to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities.

Israelis, Hamas exchange gunfire

Overnight, one 20-year-old Israeli soldier, identified as Sgt. Eitan Barak from the central Israeli city of Herzliya, was killed in the northern Gaza strip, the Israeli military said Friday morning in a statement.

Troops, Israel’s military added, fought with Hamas “in several exchanges of fire” in which 14 militants were killed. At least two Israeli soldiers were injured in combat, according to Israeli news reports. Israeli forces also destroyed some 20 concealed rocket launchers and carried out assaults on nine tunnels, the military said.

Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel throughout the night, 25 of which hit Israel, added the military. Another 20 were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Residents in southern Israel were hunkered inside their homes or in bomb shelters, as the military advised them to stay within 30 seconds travel time to protected areas.

On the ground, a Hamas anti-tank missile struck an Israeli military bulldozer in southern Gaza, with no injuries, the military said.

Sudarsan V. Raghavan

Israel says 50 rockets fired from Gaza

Israel has 'neutralized 14 terrorists'

An Israeli defense spokesman just tweeted that IDF forces have ‘neutralized 14 terrorists” and made nine strikes on tunnels it says are used by Hamas.

IDF: 1 Israeli casualty

The IDF has released a statement saying that Israeli forces suffered one casualty during ground operations in Gaza.

Various news outlets are reporting Palestinian causalities as well, though officials have not confirmed yet.

IDF texts to Gaza

CNN reporter Ben Wedeman reports from Gaza that the IDF has been sending text messages to mobile phones as they’ve entered the territory. These messages urge anyone with weapons to put them down:

Kerry-Netanyahu call

Secretary John Kerry had a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier tonight. The State Department released a readout describing the call, including Netanyahu’s assertion that there is an ‘imminent threat’ posed by tunnels in the Gaza strip:

What journalists see and hear in Gaza

Drones buzzing

Gaza hospitality

No electricity

Explosions along north Gaza

IDF: The goal is to target tunnels

Israeli Defense Forces have said that one of the missions of the ground attack is to dismantle an extensive network of tunnels believed to be used by Hamas militants.

On Thursday morning, the Israeli air force hit the opening of an incursion tunnel used by Hamas militants to sneak under the Gaza border fence for an attack inside Israel. The opening was about 250 yards inside Israel and a little more than a mile away from a kibbutz, apparently the intended target.

This video, released by Israel Defense Forces, shows what IDF says is the targeted bombing of the tunnel. Thirteen men armed with weapons are seen entering a hole in the ground, followed by smoke.

– William Booth

Powerful images of blasts hitting Gaza

An Israeli rocket is fired into the northern Gaza Strip.

(Amir Cohen/Reuters)

(Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City.

(Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

(Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Israelis cheer as rockets hit Gaza

Footage from CNN:

Photo: Protests in East Jerusalem

Demonstrations took place in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel escalates airstrikes

Along with the ground operation, Israeli airstrikes are still hitting Gaza.

Photos: The scene in Gaza

Some families trapped in Gaza

Power is off from Gaza city north to the border with Israel. Ambulance drivers can be heard on police scanners saying they cannot reach neighborhoods because of the shelling.  Families who remained behind in areas that the Israelis warned should be cleared are telling relatives in Gaza city that the bombardment has trapped them.

– William Booth

Hamas: Israel will pay 'high price'

A Hamas spokesman said that Israel has taken a dangerous step in launching a ground invasion and that it “did not study the consequences. The occupation forces will pay a high price and Hamas is ready for this confrontation.”

Read the full story here.

Israeli military tweets images of soldiers

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WATCH: Live feed of the view of Gaza as Israel begins ground strikes

CTV has provided live footage of the city as Israel begins a ground invasion, including airstrikes and a naval operation.

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