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Middle East Unrest

Israeli Ground Troops Briefly Enter Gaza in Raid

Israel sent ground forces into Gaza Saturday in what the military called a raid on a site used to fire rockets into the country. It appears to be the first time ground forces have been used in the five-day offensive that has seen more than 150 Palestinians killed.

The military announced the raid on Twitter, and said there was “an exchange of fire” that left four Israel Defense Forces soldiers with minor injuries. The military did not say whether there were casualties on the other side, but said the soldiers all returned safely to Israel and that the mission was accomplished. The operation was carried out by special forces and did not appear to be the beginning of a broad ground offensive.

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Israel earlier ignored a United Nations call for a cease-fire Saturday and widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and announced it would hit northern Gaza "with great force" to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.

One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza's police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.

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— NBC News and The Associated Press