While we were tucking into leftover Turkey sandwiches, a world away, Israel began to bomb the Gaza strip claiming retaliation for rocket attacks launched by Hamas. In the nine days since, images of burnt out homes, bodies lining the streets, and tear stained relatives have dominated the front pages. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began “Operation Cast Lead” in what it says is an effort to smash Hamas and destroy its weapons stockpile.

World leaders remain gridlocked about who should do what, when, where and why as protests continue to flare in cities across the globe. And as cease fire talks continue to stall, the BBC is reporting that in the last two days “Israeli ground forces and heavy armour have effectively cut the territory in two” and the UN have warned of a “catastrophe unfolding” for a “trapped, traumatised, terrorised” population.

Here’s what the international media are saying:

Civilians die in Gaza fighting. Heavy fighting is raging in the Gaza Strip between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters after Israel launched its ground offensive on the territory. At least 30 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since fighting began late on Saturday, according to Palestinian medical sources. An Israeli soldier was killed on Sunday in the fighting, the Israeli army said. Thousands of Israeli troops entered the Gaza Strip overnight with tanks and helicopters, accompanied by naval support and air strikes. The ground offensive followed eight days of intense Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, purportedly aimed at ending cross-border rockets being fired by Hamas fighters from the territory into southern Israel. The Israeli assault, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”, has killed more than 507 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,400 others. Four Israelis have been killed by the Hamas rocket strikes in the same time. — Al Jazeera

Israeli troops reach the edge of Gaza City . Israeli tanks and infantry battalions swept up to the very edges of Gaza City today, battling die-hard Hamas fighters and sealing off the bomb-scarred capital city from the rest of the coastal territory. With the civilian death toll rising by the hour and diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting making no headway, the head of the UN refugee agency called the situation a “catastrophe”. But Israel made clear it was not about to heed calls for a swift ceasefire to “Operation Cast Lead”. It insisted that it had to smash Hamas and destroy its weapons stockpile in order to ensure a lasting peace not just for its citizens, who have endured years of Palestinian rocket fire, but for the people of Gaza themselves. — Times Online

Israeli troops push deep into Gaza. Israeli tanks and thousands of troops today battled Hamas fighters as they pushed deep into the Gaza strip in a dramatic escalation of the conflict which has killed more than 30 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier since the ground invasion began. Soldiers reached as far as the Mediterranean coast, cutting Gaza in half and seizing control of large areas of the overcrowded territory. Israel’s ground operation, which had been widely expected, began on Saturday night, the eighth of the conflict, and is the biggest assault on Gaza since Israel withdrew its Jewish settlers in 2005. — The Guardian

In Gaza, at least 35 Palestinians killed in Israeli ground attack.  In the face of mounting international calls for a cease-fire, including harsh criticism from the head of the United Nations, Israeli leaders pledged to continue their campaign to end the threat of rocket launches by Gazan militants at southern Israeli cities and towns. — LA Times 

The analysis:

Why Israel went to war in Gaza. It is a war on two fronts. Months ago, as Israel prepared to unleash its latest wave of desolation against Gaza, it recognised that blasting Hamas and “the infrastructure of terror”, which includes police stations, homes and mosques, was a straightforward task. Israel also understood that a parallel operation would be required to persuade the rest of the world of the justice of its cause, even as the bodies of Palestinian women and children filled the mortuaries, and to ensure that its war was seen not in terms of occupation but of the west’s struggle against terror and confrontation with Iran. — The Guardian

What’s the true target in Gaza invasion? As Israeli tanks and troops poured into Gaza, the next phase in its fierce attempt to end rocket attacks, a question hung over the operation: Can the rockets really be stopped for any length of time while Hamas remains in power in Gaza? And if the answer is determined to be no, then is the real aim of the operation to remove Hamas entirely, no matter the cost? After her visit to Paris on Thursday to explain to the French authorities why she thought this was not the time for a quick cease-fire, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel said, “There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region.” Vice Premier Haim Ramon went even further Friday night in an interview on Israeli television, saying Israel must not end this operation with Hamas in charge of Gaza. — The International Herald Tribune

Business as usual . Moral relativism, political double talk, and a military juggernaut blind to its violence against an occupied people highlight the most recent, tragic conflagration in Israel and Palestine. In justifying Israel’s most brutal and bloody salvo against Gaza in decades — which has so far killed nearly 400 Palestinians and wounded more than 1800 — Israel’s UN ambassador stated that Israel was “rightfully defending itself from continued Hamas rocket attacks within her borders.” Furthermore, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert forewarned that the offensive “is liable to continue for some time.” By affirming Israel’s “right to self defense” and supporting Israel’s contention that the onus is on Hamas to renew the truce, President Bush’s waning administration highlighted its remarkably predictable political incompetence and tone-deaf moral vacancy by squandering yet another precious opportunity to remedy — at least rhetorically — the festering, radioactive sore that is the Palestinian human rights crisis in Gaza and the West Bank. — Altmuslim

And in pictures:

The Times Online photo gallery:

Alex MacDonald’s photostream on Flickr Israeli bombing of Gaza protest in London: