Israeli troops raid Gaza rocket launching site

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The Israeli military said four soldiers were wounded Saturday night during a brief incursion to raid a rocket launching site in northern Gaza.

It was the first time that Israeli ground troops are known to have entered Gaza in the current offensive, the Associated Press reported.

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Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military ordered Palestinians residing in the northern Gaza Strip to leave their homes "for their own safety."

In leaflets dropped on the area, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Israel “is currently attacking, and will continue to attack, every area from which rockets are being launched at its territory.”

“The IDF’s campaign is to be short and temporary,” the IDF added. “Those who fail to comply with the instructions will endanger their lives and the lives of their families. Beware.”

A military spokesman said Israeli forces would strike the area with heavy force over the next 24 hours in a signal that operations against Hamas militants are due to increase despite international concerns

Five days of Israeli airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip have resulted in at least 156 casualties and threatens to climb higher as the bombardment shows no signs of letting up.

The Israeli army Twitter account said overnight that rocket fire has struck “over 60 targets, making a total of 1,160 since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.” One of the sites was a mosque, where government forces believed the militant group was storing weapons.

The mosques’ destruction could further enflame the conflict as it happened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Both President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have reached out to their Israeli counterparts to express concern over the latest round of violence. While both endorsed Jerusalem’s right to defend itself, they cautioned against any escalation.

“We want to do everything we can to help stop what's going on and encourage all sides to not escalate and not let this -- these hostilities get out of control any more than they are and that we would be available to play a role in helping,” Hagel said on Friday during a Pentagon press conference. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel was “preparing for all options,” including sending ground forces into Gaza, which is home to 1.7 million people.

This story was originally published on July 12 at 9:43 a.m. and last updated on July 13 at 8:04 a.m.