January 3, 2009 2:04 PM

Fierce firefights reported as Israeli troops move into Gaza

The Israeli military sent ground troops into the Gaza Strip Saturday night as helicopters, tanks, artillery and soldiers launched the more dangerous phase of the nation’s attempt to destabilize Hamas. Israeli military officials said the ground forces would try to seize control of open fields, orchards and border areas used to fire rockets into southern Israel. Residents in northern Gaza hiding in their homes said Israeli soldiers were quickly confronted by Palestinian militants that had been lying in wait. Palestinians in the area reported intense firefights taking place but there was no immediate word on fighters killed on either side.

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