Ground troops of the Israel Defense Forces began to move into the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, according to the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The purpose of the operation, a statement by the prime minister’s office said, was to destroy terror tunnels in Gaza leading into Israel. Earlier in the day, Israeli troops bombed the area, killing eight of 13 terrorists who had attempted to enter Israel to murder or kidnap civilians from a nearby kibbutz.

“Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.

Prior to the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on the Gaza border communities where Hamas is stationed after warning residents to leave the area. Journalists and residents were also asked to leave areas along the Mediterranean coast.

Gatherings and Calls for Prayer, Study, Acts of Kindness

Throughout the world, there were calls for prayer and good deeds on behalf of the Israeli soldiers and all people threatened by ongoing missile attacks.

On hearing news of the entry of troops into Gaza, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis around the world reached out to their communities, urging them yet again to increase in acts of holiness, while maintaining a positive spirit, reminding them of what the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—said about the Jewish nation: “Regarding Israel, the Torah states that it is a ‘land upon which G‑d has His eyes at all times.’ ”

Rabbi Yossi Korik, co-director of Chabad of Roseville, Calif., hosted a program Thursday night focusing on the importance of Torah study, prayer and tzedakah (charity), encouraging people to come together to do something of “spiritual significance” on behalf of those in Israel. “The core of the message we want to be able to give people is that we’re one—that wherever in the world we may live, the Jewish people are all one unit,” he said.

About 120 people are expected at a special Shabbat dinner on Friday night at Chabad Ventnor Shul near the shore in Ventnor, N.J. The event will recognize community members who have served in the IDF, according to its co-director, Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport.

“Especially at a time where everyone’s hearts and prayers are focused on Eretz Yisrael,” he said, “we’re bringing people together in a positive way for a positive event, and the theme is going to be Israel—the Holy Land of the Jewish people.”