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Israel launches ground assault in Gaza as efforts to broker cease-fire fail

July 17, 2014 at 6:17 PM EST


JUDY WOODRUFF: The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated today after efforts to broker a cease-fire failed and Israeli troops rolled into Gaza.

The ground assault began after nightfall, with Gaza residents reporting heavy shelling along the border. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the operation would target what it called terrorist tunnels from Gaza into Israel.

It was a stark change from earlier in the day. For just a while, quiet returned to the streets of Gaza and southern Israel, after 10 days of airstrikes and rocket fire. It was a U.N.-requested truce, agreed to by Hamas and the Israeli government on humanitarian grounds.

Gazans used the truce to emerge from their homes and hunt for supplies. They also lined up in droves outside banks in order to withdraw money for the first time since the conflict began. In Israel, as air raid sirens fell silent, people in the southern town of Ashkelon also shopped for clothes and food.

But then, at 3:00 p.m. local time, the truce ended with a new barrage of Hamas rockets fired into Israel. No one was hurt. The Israelis struck back with new airstrikes in Gaza, including one that killed three children, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, a Jerusalem court indicted three Israelis in the death of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir. The Palestinian boy was burned alive after three Israeli teens were killed last month, incidents that sparked the current fighting.