Saturday, July 29, 2006

Israeli tanks move back into Gaza Strip

Israeli tanks move back into Gaza Strip


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli tanks pushed back into the Gaza Strip before dawn Saturday, a day after ending a bloody, three-day sweep that killed 30 Palestinians.

Seven tanks crossed just over Gaza's northern border, Palestinian security officials said. The army had said its withdrawal Friday was temporary and did not mean its monthlong offensive in the Gaza Strip was over.

Also Saturday, Israeli forces attacked a site on the Gaza-Egypt border where militants had been tunneling, the army said. Palestinian officials said electric cables were destroyed in the attack, knocking out power to the nearby town of Rafah.

The army said its aircraft also attacked a building housing a weapons cache in Gaza City. No injuries were reported in either incident.

After Israeli troops left Friday, Palestinians streamed out of their homes, inspecting their battered houses and vehicles while rescue workers searched for bodies underneath rubble. Militants picked up mines and explosives they had planted to hit Israeli tanks.

Israel's Gaza offensive started after a June 25 cross-border raid by Hamas-linked militants who captured an Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, and killed two others.

Palestinian officials said they had not received a response to their demand that Israel guarantee it will free women, children and long-serving Palestinian prisoners before Shalit, 19, is released. Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, said it had created a stalemate.

Shalit is believed to remain in the custody of Palestinian militant groups.

Israeli troops have killed 159 Palestinians since they started attacking the Gaza Strip to try to rescue Shalit and stop militants from firing rockets into Israel, according to an Associated Press count. Most of the dead were militants but a considerable number were civilians.

The world's attention, however, has been fixed on Lebanon, where Israel is battling Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel opened its second front on the Lebanese border after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid July 12.

Bardawil denied reports that Hamas and Hezbollah were cooperating in negotiations for the release of prisoners.

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