Created: 07/17/2014 11:04 PM WHEC.com
By: Associated Press
The heavy thud of tank shells is echoing across the Gaza Strip as Friday's dawn approaches.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers backed by tanks have rolled into the Palestinian territory in a ground invasion aimed at destroying Hamas' rocket-firing abilities and the tunnels militants use to infiltrate Israel.
With flares lighting the night sky, the wail of ambulance sirens mixed with the Muslim call to prayer from mosque loudspeakers before dawn.
Thick smoke is rising from sites where shells and missiles struck. An official in the Gaza security operations room says, "there is a tank shell every minute" and all of the seaside strip's border areas are being shelled. He says Hamas fighters have been exchanging fire with Israeli troops near a town in northern Gaza.
Gaza health officials say eight Palestinians have been killed in the early stages of the Israeli ground operation. Palestinian health officials say more than 240 Palestinians died in Israel's 10-day air campaign that preceded the invasion.
One Israeli has also been killed in the fighting.