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Israeli Air Force attacks central Gaza City

RIA Novosti

17/05/2007 16:19

GAZA, May (RIA Novosti) - The Israeli Air Force has delivered an air strike on a building in central Gaza City, a local radio reported Thursday.

The target for the attack was the headquarters of a special purpose unit of the Palestinian Interior Ministry, purportedly controlled by the Hamas movement and manned by Islamist militants.

At least two people have been killed and 20 injured, while the building has been completely destroyed, local television said citing eyewitness accounts.

Several Israeli tanks earlier crossed the northern border of the Gaza Strip, entering the Palestinian enclave for the first time in six months, the army press service said.

The military said the "redeployment of armor" was not the start of a ground operation in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian missile attacks on southern Israel.

"There are only a few tanks. They are deployed near the border and not attacking anyone. This must not be treated as an invasion; it is just a routine operation," an army official said, adding the armor group was on "a terrain reconnaissance mission."

The Israeli government said earlier it had abandoned its policy of 'restraint' toward Palestinian militants and pledged to retaliate against rocket attacks from Gaza, as fighting continues between Palestinian factions.

About 50 improvised Qassam rockets have been fired into southern Israel over the past two days, in an apparent attempt by fighters from the rival Fatah and Hamas groups to drag Israel into the conflict.

"Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert, Defense Minister [Amir] Peretz and Foreign Minister [Tzipi] Livni have authorized the army and security forces to carry out a series of operations against those firing Qassam rockets," said a statement issued by the government press service.

No details have been provided as to what actions Israel intends to take. Despite threats from the Israeli government and a unilateral truce declared Wednesday by Islamic radical group Hamas, Palestinian militants continued their rocket attacks.

The truce came after the death toll reached 40 on the fourth day of violence in Gaza City between the factions.

Israeli forces earlier launched missiles at a Hamas base following rocket fire, and reporters were trapped by gunfire in Gaza City.

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