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Saturday, July 19, 2014 - 2:45pm

Gaza Toll Near 340 As Israel Presses Ground War

Updated: 4 months ago.
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires a missile towards the Gaza Strip on Saturday as Israeli forces pressed ahead with a ground offensive.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET.

Nearly 340 people have been killed and nearly 2,400 wounded in 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip, as tens of thousands have been displaced in the conflict, according to health officials in the Palestinian territory.

Ashraf al-Kidra, a Gazan health official, says 338 Palestinians have been killed and 2,556 wounded. Earlier, another health official said some 70 children were among the dead.

Israel's military says that since its ground invasion of Gaza began, militants there have fired more than 130 rockets toward Israel, NPR's Emily Harris says.

Palestinians in the area where ground operations have taken place were warned by Israel a week ago to leave their homes in anticipation of a major escalation in the fighting. By last Sunday, Emily says, "almost 20,000 had taken refuge in schools run by a United Nations agency." Since then, she says, the number housed in those schools has tripled.

The IDF says that two Israeli residents were killed Saturday in Hamas rocket attacks and two soldiers were killed in recent fighting.

Reuters reports Israeli tanks and bulldozers dug in along a one-mile strip of the territory's eastern frontier on Saturday. The Israeli Defense Forces said combat engineers were concentrating on destroying tunnels and hidden rocked launchers that Hamas has used to fire on major cities across the border, including Tel Aviv.

Reuters quotes IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner as saying that the open-ended operation had "severely impeded Hamas' capabilities."

Israel says it foiled one cross-border raid by Gaza militants who entered Israel through one of the tunnels, and ground troops destroyed several other tunnels.

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