WARNING – DISTRESSING IMAGES: Disturbing scenes continue to emerge from the brutal conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants as fighting escalated again overnight.
Israel has fired artillery and mounted more air strikes in the Gaza Strip amid constant rocket fire deep into Israel's commercial centre.
As hostilities entered their fifth day, with no sign of abating, the Israeli military said in a statement shortly after midnight that air and ground forces were attacking the Hamas-run enclave. Rocket barrages from Gaza swiftly followed.
Earlier Israel was amassing troops along the Gaza frontier and calling up 9,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion.
Those inside Gaza, a self-governing Palestinian territory, are sharing images of family members frightened and bracing for the worst.
One mother posted a picture of her two young girls trying to sleep through the noise of rocket fire while they blocked their ears.
"My girls sleep like this. Oh God, help us," she wrote, according to the Palestinian Quds News Network.
Another video shared online by Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Bel Trew, reportedly shows a family with young children cowering under the covers and crying as rocket fire can be heard striking buildings.
"This was sent to me by colleagues in the north of the strip, the children are terrified. The fighting must stop," she tweeted.
'Heavy force' set to continue: Israeli PM
On Friday morning, Israeli Defence Forces tweeted "IDF air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip", prompting reports that a ground invasion had begun.
However, Israeli military affairs correspondents, who are briefed regularly by the government, later confirmed no ground invasion had commenced.
Residents of northern Gaza, near the Israeli frontier, said they had seen no sign of Israeli ground forces inside the enclave but reported heavy artillery fire and dozens of air strikes, Reuters reported.
The four-day burst of violence has pushed Israel into uncharted territory — dealing with the most intense fighting it has ever had with Hamas while simultaneously coping with the worst Jewish-Arab violence inside Israel in decades as demonstrators clash with police.
A late-night barrage of rocket fire from Lebanon that landed in the sea has also threatened to open a new front along Israel’s northern border.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday the campaign "will take more time".
Netanyahu, whose political position remains precarious after failing to win a governing majority as a recent election, vowed to use "heavy force" to "extract a very heavy price from Hamas."
Death toll climbing
Gaza’s Health Ministry said the death toll has climbed to 109 Palestinians, including 28 children and 15 women, with 621 people wounded.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher. Seven people have been killed in Israel, including a 6-year-old boy.
The fighting broke out late Monday (local time) when Hamas, claiming to be the defender of Jerusalem, fired a barrage of long-range rockets toward the city in response to what it said were Israeli provocations. Israel quickly responded with a series of airstrikes.
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