|Artillery shells explode over Gaza as Israeli forces invade [GALLO/GETTY]|
From a hill on the outskirts of Sderot, we have a position where we can watch the battles in Gaza.
Across the central area near the town of Beit Hanun, there are frequent plumes of smoke thrown into the area. From our position high above the Strip, we can hear the loud percussion of heavy guns, mixed with helicopters and fighter jets in the area. Occasionally the crack of machine gun fire is carried on the wind to our position.
It seems there are two main areas of fighting. Right in front of us and towards the northern part of Gaza. Fierce fighting is reported in the streets as the Israeli army move in, only to find violent resistance from the people of Gaza and Hamas.
The stated aim is to secure sites used for firing rockets into southern Israel. But even under such a massive assault, the rockets continue to come.
As we watch, two streak high into the sky, making a V shape on the distant horizon. That means somewhere in this area, the alert has been sounded, and people have around 15 seconds to take cover.
This, say the Israelis, is why they have launched the second phase of Operation Cast Lead.
But as they fight for control, street by street, it is clear it could be a long and difficult operation. And there is no guarantee it will stop the rockets.
As darkness falls, there’s a stark image which even from a distance, shows how badly the Gaza strip has been affected by the Israeli offensive.
Away to our right the lights of the coastal town of Ashkelon burn brightly.
If you then let your eyes follow the coast south, the land turned pitch black where Israel ends and Gaza begins. There are no lights. Nothing breaking the overwhelming darkness.
Moving further south the blackness is peppered with a few lights in Gaza city iself but nowhere near what would normally be blazing out.
The noise of the battle has moved.
From Northern Gaza and Beit Hanoun, it’s now concentrated in and around Gaza City.
Gunfire can be heard and from the dark skies above we can see the red flame of a rocket as it zeros in on it’s target somewhere below. Seconds later there is a explosion at it hits the ground.
From this distance there’s no way of knowing if it found its intended target or not.
Israeli security officials say the battle in Gaza could take weeks. Twenty four hours on from when it began, it looks and sounds as ferocious as ever.