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Israel launches land incursion into Gaza

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Israeli soldiers prepare for a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. [ASSAF SHILO/ISRAEL SUN PHOTO]

Israel launched a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip to destroy tunnels it says are used for terrorist activities.

The Israel Defence Forces’ spokesman’s office announced the operation by a “large IDF force” late Thursday on its Twitter feed following the order given by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“A new phase of Operation Protective Edge has begun,” the IDF tweet said.

The operation is limited for now to tanks targeting 10 tunnels in Gaza, the IDF said.

“Our goal is to target Hamas’ tunnels that enable terrorists to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks. This requires precise operations,” the spokesman’s office said.

Israeli troops earlier Thursday stopped an attempted Hamas infiltration from the Gaza Strip, forcing 13 infiltrators back into tunnels.

Israel launched Protective Edge in response to increased rocket fire on the country from Gaza. The Obama administration, which during the conflict has backed Israel’s right to defend itself, has said it would oppose a ground incursion.

Also on Thursday Israel recognized the murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir as a victim of terror.

The decision by the Ministry of Defence followed the indictment three Jewish Israelis in the slaying, the ministry said in a statement, as well as the findings from the investigation pointing to the nationalistic motive of the killing.

The designation entitles the family to benefits from the state. Also, the teen’s name will be included on the Memorial Day list of killed soldiers and terror victims.

The three Jewish suspects, who reportedly re-enacted the crime, have confessed and said the slaying was in revenge for the kidnapping and murders of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

Khdeir was kidnapped from outside a mosque in his eastern Jerusalem neighborhood early on the morning of July 2, hours after the funerals for the three Israelis. Khdeir’s badly burned body was found hours later in the Jerusalem forest.

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