GAZA CITY Ñ Israel's military launched another armored operation in
the Gaza Strip, killing 11 Palestinians and destroying four weapons
The six-hour operation was the fourth in as many days by the military
and focused on Gaza City. It was called the largest military operation by
Israel in Gaza City.
"The operation is the latest in a series against Hamas," an Israeli
senior military officer said. "Our goal was to destroy the infrastructure
that produces the Kassam missile.
An infantry and armored force, composed of 40 tanks, entered the
Sajaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City overnight Wednesday and destroyed four
weapons factories and about 32 lathes. The force, backed by AH-64A Apache
attack helicopters, came under heavy Palestinian mortars, grenade and light
arms fire during the raid. Sajaiyeh is regarded as a stronghold of the Hamas
and Islamic Jihad groups.
Israeli helicopters fired anti-tank rockets toward insurgency positions
in the raid. Palestinians reported that 11 insurgents were killed in the
operation. One of those killed was a suicide bomber who blew himself up to
stop the approaching Israeli force.
Israeli military sources said the operation targeted Kassem-class
short-range missile production facilities in the Gaza City. More than 300
Kassem rockets have been fired toward the Israeli city of Sderot alone over
the past 10 months.
Earlier, leaders of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they were prepared
to limit use of such weapons as the Kassam-class short-range missiles and
mortars in the war against Israel. They said the weapons would not be used
in offensive operations against Israel's military or civilians.
The decision by the Islamic groups was relayed to the Palestinian
Authority and the ruling Fatah movement, Palestinian sources said. They said
the decision was taken after heavy pressure on Hamas and Jihad by Egypt,
which hosted Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo last month.
"Hamas also decided to resort to Kassam rockets only to protect
Palestinian civilians in case of an Israeli aggression against Gaza cities
and towns," Hamas leader Abdul Aziz Rentisi said.
Rentisi said Hamas would also end the use of mortars against Israeli
communities in the Gaza Strip. He said the movement would fire missiles only
to stop Israeli military incursions in Palestinian areas.
A Jihad spokesman said his group has stopped the use of mortars in
attacks on Israeli targets. The organization has focused on suicide
operations against Israeli targets in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the
"The mortars are of no great benefit on the road of Palestinian
resistance to Israeli occupation," Jihad spokesman Mohammed Hindi said. "It
[Jihad] has been avoiding the use of mortars for some time."