Israel Defense Forces attack Gaza Strip

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A 3,000 strong detachment of the Israeli Defense Forces has moved back into the Gaza Strip only months after withdrawal of settlements from the area. Eight Hamas cabinet ministers, in addition to other officials, have been detained in a coordinated action codenamed Operation Summer Rains. The pre-planned operation was launched in immediate response to what Israel said was the kidnap of 19-year-old Israeli tank gunner Cpl. Gilad Shalit on 25 June.

Map of the Gaza Strip.

Three bridges in the Gaza Strip have been bombed for the stated purpose of restricting the movement of the hostage takers and the hostage.

In other operations a helicopter attack on a power station in Gaza plunged large portions of the Gaza Strip into darkness, leaving somewhere around 700,000 civilians without electricity or water. While Israeli troops and armored vehicles, lead by bulldozers, also moved into Gaza near a disused international airport.

There were also reports of Israeli warplanes making warning flights over Syria in what has been reported to be a warning "against supporting Palestinian militants."

"Fight your enemies, who came to their deaths. Grab your rifles and resist," said Nizar Rayan in a radio message to Palestinian militants. Despite this exhortation, there were no immediate reports of casualties or conflicts.

"We have no desire to remain in the Gaza Strip," said Israeli National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, on Israel Radio, although he did not give a timetable for the operation. "We want to bring our boy home, that's all."

The Popular Resistance Committees threatened to kill an Israeli soldier, kidnapped in the West Bank. The body of an 18-year-old Israeli settler, Eliyahu Yitzhak Asheri, kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank, was found in the A-Tira neighbourhood of Ramallah today; he was killed by Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees on Sunday.

Israel has also detained dozens of Hamas MPs and ministers in a what Israel claims is an unrelated operation. An Israeli official denied the capture as a use for bargaining with the kidnappers saying, "They are not bargaining chips for the return of the soldier - it was simply an operation against a terrorist organisation."