Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released a statement today announcing that Israeli forces have begun a ground invasion in Gaza. The goal of the operation, according to statement, is to "establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror."

IDF spokesman Moti Almoz told the Jerusalem Post, "The operation has reached its ground phase. Large numbers of forces began a focused effort to destroy tunnels in Gaza. We are in a new stage." He said forces are "moving now in various areas of Gaza. We will continue to attack in every location we think needs to be struck."

The Post also notes that Israeli forces intend to "destroy the Gazan terror tunnels leading to Israel." Earlier today, Israel thwarted a Hamas attack in which 13 men attempted to reach a kibbutz by tunnel.

Israel's Channel 10 reporter Alon Ben-David reports that there have been "dozens" of Palestinian casualties in the ground invasion so far. At least 235 Palestinians have been killed in the last ten days.

Despite this escalation, The New York Times reports that cease-fire talks are still happening:

Palestinian, Egyptian, Israeli and American officials said intense discussions were underway on terms for a cease-fire that could take effect as soon as 6 a.m. Friday, but none was willing to be quoted by name. ... "The effort to achieve an end of the violence is ongoing," said one senior Israeli official. "We're not there yet."

Earlier today, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman denied reports that a cease-fire deal had been reached. A Hamas spokesman also denied the reports.

[Image via AP]