July 19, 2014 - 14:37 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Israeli soldiers in tanks and bulldozers dug in across a mile-wide strip of eastern Gaza on Saturday, July 19, as Palestinian officials said military strikes had pushed the mostly civilian death toll past 300, Reuters reported.
The military said its engineers were concentrating on an effective buffer-zone 2.5 km (1.5 mile) wide and were looking to destroy tunnels dug in secret by Hamas after the last major fighting there in 2012.
Israel launched its ground offensive and intensive barrages from air and sea on Thursday after 10 days of fighting.
Hostilities escalated after the abduction and killing last month of three Jewish seminary students that Israel blames on Hamas, which neither confirmed nor denied involvement. The apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, for which Israel charged three Jews, further fueled tensions.
Gaza officials said that at least 318 Palestinians, including 70 children, have died in the offensive Israel launched on July 8 following a surge of rocket salvoes that came as it rounded up Hamas men in the occupied West Bank.
One Israeli soldier and a civilian have been killed.
Fighters from Gaza launched 18 rockets into Israel overnight and four were shot down by its Iron Dome interceptor while the rest fell harmlessly wide, the Israeli military said.
Military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said 13 tunnels, at least one of them 30 meters (90 feet) deep, and 95 rocket launchers were found and destroyed in the Gaza sweep.