Israel launches offensive in northern Gaza

The Israeli military today launched a three-pronged offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a top Hamas commander, in its latest operation against Palestinian rocket squads.

The Israeli military today launched a three-pronged offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a top Hamas commander, in its latest operation against Palestinian rocket squads.

But militants persisted with the rocket fire, launching five home-made projectiles.

One critically wounded a man in the town of Sderot, striking the ground just half a mile away from a convoy carrying the United Nations’ top human rights official.

The military confirmed operations in northern Gaza, but provided few details.

It has intensified its military offensive against rocket-launchers in Gaza in recent weeks.

The operation today began as an arrest raid in the Zeitoun neighbourhood of Gaza City, then fanned out to the outskirts of Jebaliya and Beit Lahiya, about five miles away.

At nightfall the Israelis pulled back from Beit Lahiya, Palestinian security officials said.

The military said the movement was routine rotation of forces.

In the Gaza city raid, ground troops, backed by helicopters, tanks and snipers, surrounded the home of Ayman Hassanin, a local leader in the military wing of the ruling Hamas group, witnesses said.

A fierce gunbattle erupted, and Hassanin, 26, was killed, Hamas said.

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