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Israeli troops prepare to fire shells toward the Gaza Strip. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli ground troops have joined the fight near the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces announced on Thursday night.

Driving the news: While tanks and artillery were deployed for the first time on Thursday, the IDF says no ground troops have crossed into Gaza. Israel has called up 9,000 reservists and massed at least three brigades on the frontier with Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.

  • The last ground war between Israel and Hamas took place in 2014.

The big picture: The current escalation began on Monday in Jerusalem, where Palestinians were protesting the planned evictions of six Palestinian families in favor of Jewish settlers, and Israeli nationalists were planning an annual march to celebrate the reunification of the city under Israeli control.

  • With the city braced for violence, Israeli police raided the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or Temple Mount, and violently dispersed Palestinian protesters, some of whom were throwing stones.
  • As images from al-Aqsa spread around the region, Hamas warned that they would attack Israel if Israeli police didn’t leave the compound, one of the holiest sites for both Muslims and Jews.

An air war has followed, with Hamas firing thousands of rockets from Gaza and Israel conducting airstrikes, which the Gaza Health Ministry says have killed at least 109 Palestinians, including 28 children.

  • Several high-rise buildings have been toppled, and the Israeli military says it has killed several Hamas commanders.
  • One Israeli soldier and six others, including one child in Israel have been killed by Hamas attacks, which have targeted Israel's largest cities. Most of the rockets fired from Gaza have been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system.
  • International actors including the UN, U.S. and Egypt have been attempting to prevent further escalation, though the Biden administration has repeatedly emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself and has not publicly called for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, in the streets of Israeli cities with Jewish and Arab residents, horrific scenes of mob violence have unfolded over the past three nights, with both Arab and Jewish individuals and businesses targeted.

  • It’s the worst inter-communal violence in Israel since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, Axios’ Barak Ravid reports.
  • Thursday's escalation comes on the Eid al-Fitr holiday, normally a joyous day on which Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Go deeper: Israel's "change bloc" collapses, leaving Netanyahu in charge

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the IDF confirmed no ground troops have entered Gaza.

Go deeper

Updated May 12, 2021 - World

Gaza crisis: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip leave their neighborhood on Wednesday following an explosion. Photo: li Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tel Aviv — With Israel and Hamas now engaged in their most destructive fight in seven years, the Biden administration is dispatching a State Department official to join the de-escalation efforts.

The latest: The Israeli air force attacked a meeting of senior Hamas military leaders on Wednesday in Gaza and reported it had killed the Gaza City Brigade commander and the heads of Hamas’ cyber arm and weapons research and development department, along with at least three other senior officials.

May 13, 2021 - World

Biden: "Israel has a right to defend itself"

President Biden during a news conference at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden told reporters Wednesday it's his "expectation and hope" that there will soon be an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas, which has killed scores of Palestinians and several Israelis.

What they're saying: Biden, after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that he hoped the conflict would be "closing down sooner than later," despite Israel's government announcing plans to scale up its military offensive.

Updated May 14, 2021 - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.