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Israel Troops Continue Gaza Ground Offensive


Israeli ground forces backed by helicopter gunships have pushed deep into the Gaza Strip, effectively cutting the coastal Palestinian territory in half.

Medics say more than 30 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed Sunday as Israeli forces and Hamas militants fight in the streets.

The Israeli army confirmed the first death of a soldier in the Gaza offensive. It also said 30 of its soldiers have been wounded.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a televised interview on al Jazeera's English-language channel that Israel will continue the assault until a solution is reached that will provide long-term peace. Israel launched the ground offensive late Saturday after a week of air strikes on the territory.

Israeli military officials say their objective is not to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, but to destroy the Hamas military infrastructure in the territory.

Hamas militants fired about 25 rockets into southern Israel late Saturday and today. One rocket hit a building in the city of Ashdod, wounding two people.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an end to Israel's ground operation. But the U.N. Security Council ended emergency consultations that began late Saturday without reaching an agreement on the situation.

France's U.N. ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said there were "strong convergences" among the Council's 15 members about the need for a fully respected cease-fire. However, diplomats said the United States blocked Libya's attempt to call for an immediate halt to the fighting.

Officials say at least 500 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its offensive. The United Nations estimates about a quarter of those have been civilians. To limit civilian casualties, Israeli aircraft have been dropping leaflets over Gaza warning people to leave their homes before air strikes are launched.

The director general of Gaza's main hospital Al-Shifa says electricity has been cut off and that there is not enough diesel fuel to keep the generators running.

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