Israeli tanks and troops pull out of northern Gaza

Israeli troops and tanks pulled out of northern Gaza early today after a bloody two-day sweep, killing 29 Palestinians, but Israeli aircraft pounded the area.

Israeli troops and tanks pulled out of northern Gaza early today after a bloody two-day sweep, killing 29 Palestinians, but Israeli aircraft pounded the area.

The Israeli army killed five Palestinians yesterday, including a 75-year-old woman and a child, and the body of a militant was found after the Israelis pulled back.

The raid produced the bloodiest violence since Israel launched its Gaza offensive a month ago, but the world’s attention is focused on Lebanon, where Israeli forces have been fighting Hezbollah guerrillas since July 12.

Israel’s army and air force have been attacking the Gaza Strip to try to stop militants from firing rockets at southern Israel. The Israeli operation began after Hamas-linked militants killed two soldiers and captured a third in a cross-border raid on a military outpost on June 25.

After the Israeli pullout, as residents streamed outside before dawn to inspect the damage, rescue workers found the body of a militant killed in the fighting. Israeli troops tore up farmland and knocked down walls, electricity wires and telephone cables during the incursion.

Militants were removing mines and explosives they planted to try to stop the Israelis.

In southern Gaza, Israeli aircraft hit a metal workshop in the city of Khan Younis early today, wounding nine people, including two children, hospital officials said. Nearby buildings were also damaged, and rescue workers were searching through the rubble. The military said the target was a weapons storehouse.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in Algiers that the situation in the Palestinian areas and Lebanon was only likely to get worse after world leaders failed to agree on an immediate ceasefire at a summit in Rome on Wednesday.

“The situation will worsen and the consequences will be very heavy, not only for the region but probably for the entire world,” he told Algeria’s official APS news agency.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner and Erkki Tuomioja, Finland’s foreign minister, visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City yesterday but did not meet with Palestinian government officials. Later, at a news conference in Tel Aviv, Tuomioja said of the high casualties in Gaza, “that kind of violence must stop and is not acceptable”.

In Gaza yesterday, five Palestinians were killed. A 75-year-old woman was hit by shrapnel from an Israeli tank shell fired at her house near the town of Jebaliya, Palestinian security officials said.

Later, a 12-year-old boy was killed by Israeli gunfire as he stood on the roof of his house at the edge of the Jebaliya camp across from Israeli forces, residents and hospital officials said.

The military said it did not know of either incident, but Israeli forces were trying to keep civilian casualties to a minimum and regretted loss of innocent lives.

Also yesterday, the air force fired missiles at eastern Gaza City, killing a Hamas militant and wounding 14 others. The army said the attack hit a group of armed men before they could fire at troops.

Two Palestinians later died of their wounds – a man hit by an airstrike in eastern Gaza City and an 18-year-old who was hit when a tank shell fell near his house in northern Gaza, medics said.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israeli police found a burned car with a charred body inside it near the city of Nablus, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Israel Radio said the victim was an Israeli settler who was kidnapped and killed by Palestinians after going into the area to get his car fixed cheaper than he would have been able to in Israel.

Radio said the settler had stopped his car to pick up someone dressed as a religious Jew.

Also yesterday, A Palestinian youth was shot and killed by two Israeli border policemen after he attacked them on the outskirts of Jerusalem, police said.

The youth opened fire on the police, wounding one of them seriously and the other slightly before they returned fire, police and rescue workers said.

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