Resident Offers View From Inside Gaza City

A Gaza City resident says he's been sleeping in his living room for the last three days because of fears an Israeli airstrike will hit a police building he can see from his bedroom window.

"We're expecting it to be bombed anytime," says Muhammad Shariff, who is also executive director of the Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children.

Shariff tells NPR's Guy Raz that residents are limiting their movements. "We go to the supermarket to get things. Of course, we try to do everything between 10 o'clock and 12 o'clock noon. It seems like this is a part of the day that airstrikes kind of slow down," he says.

He says damage is spread throughout the city. "It's amazing. One cannot describe. My apartment is in the center of many targets, so we've been living a really terrifying experience," he says.

Shariff says he's been in Gaza for six years, but friends who have lived their whole lives there tell him "they've never seen such heavy airstrikes — such targeting everything everywhere, not taking in consideration human casualties."

Shariff also says he saw a missile launched from inside Gaza City on Friday.

"They used to launch it from the border lines, and now it seems like ... they're launching them from inside the city, so we're actually anxious to see what's going to happen right now."

Israel Sends Ground Forces Into Gaza Strip

Israeli troops prepare to mobilize on Saturday on the Gaza/Israel border.

Israeli troops prepare to mobilize on Saturday on the Gaza/Israel border. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Uriel Sinai/Getty Images
Israeli artillery fire shells into Gaza on Saturday.

Israeli artillery fire shells into Gaza on Saturday. Uriel Sinai/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Israel has begun a ground operation inside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip involving a substantial number of troops backed by tanks and helicopters.

Israeli troops began moving into Gaza shortly after 8 p.m. local time on Saturday. The operation penetrated the territory at several points and was designed to seize areas of north Gaza being used to launch rockets against Israel, Israeli military officials said.

The aim of the operation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a live television broadcast, is to end Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and return southern Israel to a state of calm. It won't be short or easy, Barak said.

Ismail Radwan of Hamas vowed fierce resistance and to exact a high price, saying to the Israelis, "Gaza will not be a picnic. ... Gaza will be a graveyard for you."

Earlier, Israeli troops unleashed an intense artillery barrage to destroy explosives and mines in the areas they planned to seize. The ground operation came after an eight-day air campaign that failed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.

Civilian witnesses hunkered down in Beit Hanoun, the northernmost Palestinian town in the Gaza Strip, said fierce clashes were underway between militants and Israeli forces. Both sides claimed to have inflicted casualties on the other.

Before the ground operation began, defense officials said around 10,000 soldiers massed along the border in recent days.

The first week of fighting in the Gaza Strip had claimed more than 400 Palestinians lives, while four Israelis were killed by rocket fire.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said U.S. officials have been in regular contact with the Israelis as well as officials from countries in the region and Europe.

"We continue to make clear to them our concerns for civilians, as well as the humanitarian situation," Johndroe said.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled emergency consultations Saturday night on the escalation in Gaza. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged key world leaders to intensify efforts to achieve an immediate truce including international monitors to enforce a truce and possibly to protect Palestinian civilians.

From NPR and wire reports.

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