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Israeli Troops Ready to Move Into Gaza

By VOA News
05 December 2007

The Israeli military says it has completed plans for a major offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip aimed at halting Palestinian attacks.

Army Chief, General Gabi Ashkenazi, said Wednesday a ground operation is ready to start, pending the government's approval.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Tuesday that Israel would eventually have to launch an extensive operation in Gaza to stop the frequent attacks from the coastal strip.

Earlier today, Israeli strikes killed two Hamas militants and wounded several others in Gaza.

Israel frequently carries out attacks against militants to prevent them from firing rocket and mortars toward Israel from the Gaza Strip. It has killed more than 20 militants in the past 10 days.

The militant Islamist group Hamas seized control of Gaza in June.

In other news, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Palestinian leaders Tuesday sent an urgent message to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seeking her help to block Israel's plans to build more than 300 new homes in a Jewish settlement on the edge of East Jerusalem.

Palestinians say the planned construction, in the neighborhood Israelis call Har Homa undermines newly re-launched peace negotiations.

Israeli spokesman, Mark Regev contends the ban on new construction of Jewish settlements applies to territory in the West Bank. He says East Jerusalem falls under Israeli sovereignty.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war, but that annexation is not internationally recognized. Palestinians have called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the state they want to create.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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