There are confirmed reports from the Israeli military that Israeli ground troops have begun to cross into Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian sources on the ground a column of military vehicles had crossed into the town of Beit Lahiya. Earlier in the day Israeli artillery shelled and bombarded the nearby town of Beit Lahiya and bombed a mosque killing 13 worshippers and wounding at least 50 according to Hamas and medical sources.
The Israeli Defense Ministerhas said that:' the campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers "won't be short" or easy.'
He spoke shortly after Israeli tanks and infantry rolled into Gaza after nightfall, launching a ground invasion that escalated the week-old offensive against Hamas.
The campaign "won't be easy and it won't be short," Barak said.
News update Sunday 4th January: Media reports quoting medics said that at least 19 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israeli ground fire and air strikes in Gaza early on Sunday as occupation forces pushed deeper into the Hamas-run territory.
Eighteen people were killed around Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya in the north and one near Khan Yunis in the south, they said.The identities of all the victims were not immediately available, but civilians were among the dead, they added.
Since the start of "Operation Cast Lead" at least 485 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli occupation forces, including 80 children, and more than 2,400 wounded in Gaza, according to Gaza medics.
Rockets fired by Gaza militants have killed three civilians and one soldier inside Israel during the same time period.
Since the start of the ground offensive 30 Israeli soldiers have been wounded, two of them seriously, the army said.
Media reports further said: 'Israeli tanks continued pouring into Gaza on Sunday along with military ambulances as artillery shells rained down on the Palestinian territory. Troops were reported to be operating just three kilometres (nearly two miles) south of Gaza City, the main population centre of the densely populated enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt. It was at around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Saturday when infantry kitted with night-vision goggles trotted alongside tank columns across the northern and northeastern borders and into the Hamas stronghold. Hamas fighters fired mortar rounds and detonated roadside bombs as the Israelis advanced.
Shortly after the ground offensive began, flames shot high into the night sky when warplanes bombed a gas depot near Beit Lahiya, causing a deafening blast. A huge fire raged at the depot, on a main road through Gaza, following the strike on the private business that sells cooking gas. Flares also streamed into the sky and exploded like fireworks, briefly lighting up the overcrowded territory
Separately, witnesses said soldiers had entered a neighbourhood of the northeastern town of Beit Hanun. Residents were being told by loudspeaker to evacuate the area, they said.'