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Israel Launches Ground Offensive Into Gaza

Israel has begun a ground offensive in Gaza, sending in troops and tanks and continuing to carry out air strikes as well.

Israeli tanks and troops began to move into the Gaza Strip Saturday evening under cover of darkness.

In a televised address, Defense Minister Ehud Barak explained the mission. "Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza," he said.

Israeli officials have made it clear, they want to significantly diminish the capability of Hamas to continue to launch rockets into southern Israel.

A ground operation had been widely anticipated and came as Israeli air strikes went into their second week.

Ehud Barak said Israel had carefully weighed all its options. "We are not war hungry but we shall not - I repeat we shall not - allow a situation where our towns, villages, and civilians are constantly targeted by Hamas. It will not be easy or short, but we are determined," he said.

Speaking with VOA from Gaza City, Palestinian journalist Mohammed Dawwas gave a firsthand account of what Palestinian families are experiencing. "I moved out of my house out of fear. They were bombarding near my house. I moved to my father in law's house. Well, it's completely dark. What I saw was they bombed the office of the president just now. We just hear the explosions. We don't see anything even during the day time," he said.

Israel had kept up the pressure throughout the day, striking at some 40 targets.

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting continue as well and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due in the region Monday as part of that effort.