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Israeli tanks move back into north Gaza july.25.2006

 

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - About 50 Israeli tanks moved back into northern Gaza early Wednesday and five Palestinians were killed in air strikes as Israel pressed ahead with its nearly month-long Gaza offensive. Israeli aircraft carried out at least three air strikes as the troops moved in, killing five people and wounding 15, hospital officials said. Two of the five dead were militants, but the other three were not immediately identified, they said.The Israeli military said forces were operating in northern Gaza as part of a campaign to stop terrorism and rocket barrages at Israel. The military said aircraft targeted three groups of militants who were approaching the troops. Exchanges of fire between the two sides were reported through the night. A number of Israeli tanks and bulldozers also crossed into southern Gaza near Khan Younis on Tuesday, witnesses said. Just before the force entered, an Israeli helicopter dropped leaflets warning residents to stay indoors because the army was carrying out an operation against cells firing rockets into Israel, witnesses said.The army confirmed it was operating in the area. Also Tuesday, a Palestinian boy was killed and his father and sister wounded near Khan Younis. Palestinians blamed Israeli gunfire, but Israel denied that. Israel launched a Gaza offensive on June 27, days after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier and killed two others in a raid on an army post inside Israel. Israel later expanded its attacks to stop militants from launching rockets into southern Israel. More than 100 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, have been killed. Israel has also been fighting Hezbollah on a second front in Lebanon after the Shiite group's militants crossed into Israel and kidnapped two soldiers. Early Wednesday, Israeli troops took over rooftops of several houses in northern Gaza, residents said, and Israeli aircraft blasted several houses of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists after warning people to leave. In another tactic, the Palestinian phone company said more than 1,000 residents of Khan Younis received recorded messages from Israel warning them not to hide weapons or shield militants. The residents were apparently picked at random, phone company officials said Hospital officials said the 12-year-old boy, his 16-year-old sister and their father were shot in Khan Younis after they stumbled on an undercover army unit. However, the military said no Israeli forces were operating in the Khan Younis area. The army said the only shooting incident then was near the Kissufim crossing 3 miles away, where troops fired at a group of people after they set off an explosive device next to the border. They did not hit them, the army said. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, about 20 Israeli jeeps entered the city of Ramallah on Tuesday night and surrounded a building there, Palestinian security officials said.The officials said the Israeli army had warned Palestinian security officials to keep their patrols off the streets because an operation to arrest wanted militants was under way.The army confirmed that it was conducting an operation in Ramallah.

Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians, comprising seven militants, a three-year-old girl and another civilian, in fighting across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, medics and witnesses said. Israel has stepped up air strikes and launched raids into Gaza to stop rocket attacks and recover a soldier captured by militants on June 25. The army has killed 129 Palestinians since it began its assault. About half were civilians. Israeli troops have continued the offensive in Gaza while fighting on a second front in Lebanon following the capture of two soldiers by Hizbollah guerrillas in a July 12 raid. Among those killed in the attacks in Gaza on Wednesday were six loyalists of the governing Hamas militant group and one gunman from the kindred Islamic Jihad faction, which is also dedicated to destroying Israel. Medics said a three-year-old and another civilian were killed. At least 40 people were wounded, including a cameraman for Palestinian television. Israel's army said it had carried out strikes against gunmen. At least 30 tanks and other armored vehicles pushed more than 2 km (1.2 miles) into the northern Gaza Strip overnight. Troops clashed with militants on the edge of Jabalya, a stronghold of Hamas. Buzzing overhead, unmanned drone aircraft fired missiles at militants as soon as they appeared on the streets, Palestinian witnesses said. Israel also bombed offices used by a Hamas-led force in Gaza City on Wednesday. The army has destroyed several offices of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, which accuses Israel of trying to bring down its elected administration .Israel has rejected demands by the militants who captured Corporal Gilad Shalit to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his release. The offensive has put pressure on Hamas, which was already struggling under a crippling U.S.-led aid embargo, designed to pressure the group to recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept past peace deals.