Death toll climbs; Israel pushes deeper into Gaza - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Death toll climbs; Israel pushes deeper into Gaza

Associated Press - January 4, 2009 6:13 PM ET

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships have surrounded Gaza's largest city and fought militants at close range on the first full day of a ground offensive.

Israeli soldiers are fighting mainly in open areas in the launching zones used by Gaza's militants to fire rockets into Israel.

A health ministry official says 64 Palestinian civilians have been killed since the ground assault began. The new deaths brought the death toll in the Gaza Strip to more than 512 since Dec. 27th.

Five Israelis have been killed since the offensive began.

Meanwhile, Israel has approved the mobilization of thousands of reservists, in addition to tens of thousands called up Saturday. Defense officials say the extra forces could enable a far broader ground offensive.

The troops could also be used in the event Palestinian militants in the West Bank or Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon decide to launch attacks.

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