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In pictures: Israeli soldiers prepare for Gaza ground invasion

Ground offensive against Gaza intensifies as 18,000 additional Israeli reservists called up
Israeli soldiers wait near Rafah crossing on Friday (MEE / Andrea DiCenzo)

Israeli soldiers were being bussed down to the border in droves on Friday after an additional 18,000 soldiers were called up and Israeli authorities announced that Operation Protective Edge had been expanded into a ground offensive. That number is in addition to the 40,000 reservist already in position in southern Israel, with tanks and various other military equipment also rolling in. 

As the soldiers await orders, small groups break off to pray or link arms and sing, but the tension is palpable and are seen resting in quiet anticipation of things to come. 

Troops have now surrounded the Strip with a 1.5 kilometre secure parameter inside Gaza's borders, diplomatic sources said. However, continuous machine gun and small arms are being reported from the Erez crossing, with further clashes expected. So far, one Israeli soldier and one civilian have been killed since the latest operation was launched on 8 July. More than 270 Palestinians have also been killed. 

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