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Israeli troops thrust deep into Gaza City

Israeli troops thrust deep into Gaza City

Witnesses say Israeli ground troops are advancing into crowded residential areas of Gaza City, and thousands of terrified residents are fleeing their homes.
Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns thrust deeper into the city than ever before to seek Hamas fighters.
It was not clear whether this would be a brief foray or signal a new phase in Israel's devastating offensive against Gaza's Islamic Hamas rulers. So far Israel has balked at launching all-out urban warfare in Gaza City, where Hamas militants are more familiar with the lay of the land and Israeli casualties would be liable to spiral.
Residents were fleeing their homes Thrusday in their pajamas, some wheeling elderly parents in wheelechairs. Others were stopping journalists' armored cars or ambulances pleading for someone to take them to safety.
Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 in an effort to stop militant rocket fire on southern Israel from Gaza.