Ignoring global calls for a ceasefire, Israeli troops - thought to be naval commandos - briefly entered Gaza early on Sunday and raided a missile launching site. This is the first time Israeli forces have acknowledged they've entered Gaza in what appeared to be the ground assault.

Israel has been building up its troops along the border with northern Gaza, fueling speculation of a possible ground invasion.

During the incursion, which lasted about half an hour, both sides exchanged gunfire at the launch site, an Israeli military source said.

Four Israeli troops suffered light injuries, but all the soldiers returned home safely, the source said.

The Israeli jets later dropped leaflets at Beit Lahiya, home to about 100,000 people, warning residents to evacuate their homes ahead of their "short and temporary" campaign to begin on Sunday.

"The Israeli Defense Forces intends to attack terrorists and terror infrastructures ..." the leaflets said, mentioning a list of areas that will be targeted.

"Israel is currently attacking, and will continue to attack, every area from which rockets are being launched at its territory."

The Palestinian death toll from the Israeli air strikes hit 168 with another 1,120 people wounded, the emergency services said.

About 17,000 people, fearing for their lives, have taken shelter in installations of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said its spokesman Chris Gunness in a statement.

Meanwhile, around 800 Palestinians holding dual citizenship have reportedly begun leaving Gaza via Israel's Erez Crossing.

Israel carried out overnight air strikes against Gaza's security headquarters and police stations, in the heaviest bombardment since operations began on July 8.

A senior security official has said the operation in northern Gaza is necessary because the area accounts for far more rocket attacks than other areas.

The IDF struck 200 targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours, including civilian institutions and mosques with suspected Hamas ties. The other targets include 53 underground rocket launchers, 11 rocket production and storage centers, nine Hamas command and control centers, and five training camps.


Latest News from World News Desk