By Ralph Ellis, Ben Wedeman and Michael Pearson
GAZA CITY (CNN) — The Israeli military launched a ground operation into Gaza late Thursday following some of the most intense fighting in the 10-day face-off between Israel and Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered the ground action to destroy tunnels from Gaza into Israeli territory, according to a statement from the prime minister’s media adviser.
The adviser said Hamas terrorists used such a tunnel to infiltrate Israel on Thursday morning to launch an attack, but that the Israel Defense Forces thwarted the action. The IDF was told to be ready to expand the action, called Operation Protective Edge, the statement said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told CNN that “the beginning of the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza is a dangerous step with unknown consequences. Israel will pay a heavy price for it.”
The long-awaited ground operation follows one of the worst nights of fighting since the war began. That fighting began after a temporary cease-fire ended earlier in the day.