Israeli tanks forged into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing mortar fire from Palestinian militants and intensifying violence that has chipped away at a tenuous cease-fire.
By IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writer
Israel and Hamas have been trading fire for two weeks after nearly five months of relative quiet. The June 19 truce is due to expire next month, and both sides might be trying to dictate more favorable terms in anticipation of the agreement’s renewal.
The Israeli military described the activity as “a routine operation to uncover explosive devices near the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.” It said two mortars were fired at troops, causing no injuries or damage.
Militant groups said they fired both mortars and rockets.
Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a protest in Gaza November 18, 2008. The rally on Tuesday was organized by the Hamas movement against the arrest of Hamas members by the security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.REUTERS/Suhaib Salem (GAZA)
The tanks, backed by a bulldozer and military jeep, rumbled about a quarter-mile into the tiny seaside strip, residents and Gaza security officials said. Residents said they leveled lands along the border east of the city of Rafah. It was the first ground action in a week.
The tanks did not respond to the Palestinian fire.