Israel prepared to expand ground offensive in Gaza, Netanyahu says

BY Ayan Sheikh  July 18, 2014 at 1:03 PM EST

A picture taken from the Israeli Gaza border shows smoke billowing from the Gaza Strip following an Israeli air strike on July 16, 2014. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

A picture taken from the Israeli Gaza border shows smoke billowing from the Gaza Strip following an Israeli air strike on July 16, 2014. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that the Israeli military was prepared for “the possibility of widening significantly” its ground offense in Gaza.

The decision to send in ground troops was announced following 10 days of intense fighting between the two sides.

Since the ground operation began Thursday night, Israel Defense Forces has revealed that it has captured 13 militants and uncovered eight “tunnel access points” which they said Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, at least 20 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier were killed since the start of Thursday’s ground operation, Palestinian Health officials said. Among the dead were three Palestinian children killed by Israeli tank fire. That brings the Palestinian death toll to 274 and approximately 2,000 injured.

Netanyahu offered his condolences to the family of 20-year-old Staff Sgt. Eitan Barak from Herzliya, who was killed early on in the offensive. Barak was the second Israeli casualty of the ongoing conflict.