The much-anticipated operation follows some of the most intense fighting in the 10 days of bombings and airstrikes between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinian medical and security sources say 240 people have been killed in Gaza, including at least seven children who died Thursday. Nearly 2,000 more are severely injured.
A statement from the Israel Defense Forces said: “The IDF’s objective as defined by the Israeli government is to establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continues indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.
Before the ground operation was launched, Gaza experienced one of the worst nights of fighting Thursday since the war began after a temporary cease-fire ended, CNN reporter Ian Lee said.
“Periodic fire balls illuminate the sky over Gaza,” he said. “We see rockets screech toward the sky. Minutes later we see an intercepting missile rise from the iron dome, reducing the rocket into confetti of light and fire.