Israel has said its ground operation in Gaza is the second stage of the ongoing military offensive and warned it will be “long and difficult.”

The announcement followed heavy Israeli bombing throughout the Gaza Strip, with Israeli commanders deployed strategically across the area. Explosions were visible from several parts of Gaza from southern Israel following the premier’s speech.

Israel has left Gaza civilians cut off from the outside world, as phone lines and internet access remain down. Israeli forces targeted the public telecom infrastructure as part of their military campaign. Satellite telephones, which are Gaza’s only way to communicate with the external world, will be targeted very soon.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Israel of war crimes. In response, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu recalled his diplomats from Turkey.

Israel’s continued bombing of Gaza has so far killed more than 8,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children. Over 18,000 people have been wounded, and more than 1.4 million people have been made homeless.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for immediate de-escalation in Gaza.

In a departure from its usual practice of private diplomacy to encourage respect for international law, the ICRC has publicly decried the situation in Gaza. The organisation characterised the conflict as a “catastrophic failing that the world must not tolerate.”

ICRC’s key concern is ensuring the delivery of sustained aid and facilitating access for humanitarian agencies to assist in Gaza.