For the first time in two weeks, Israeli army carried out early on Tuesday dawn a ground attack on southern Gaza Strip, killing two Palestinians, said to be Hamas members, wounded a 32-year-old woman and other two men.
Palestinian medical sources identified the killed as Abdel-Karim Shaaâth and Mohammad Muamar, who were killed during a shootout with the incurring Israeli forces.
The sources said that the wife of another Palestinian from the area, was moderately wounded with a bullet to the head, as well as four other locals.
Witnesses said that tens of Israeli armored vehicles, backed by warplanes, invaded the vicinity of the Sofa commercial crossing in eastern Rafah city, and began shooting heavily at the Palestinian houses.
Shortly after a gun battle, soldiers broke into the houses, killing the Abu Moamar and Shaâath, wounding the woman and the other two men and taking prisoners two brothers of Abu Moamar, witnesses added
Witnesses made clear that the Israeli soldiers exchanged gun fire with resistance men and called, with loudspeakers, on certain family members to go out of their houses.
Tuesdayâs incursion into Rafah is the first since Israeli warplanes have stepped up air strikes on the Gaza Strip on May17, targeting mainly Hamasâs operatives and positions.
Following an Israeli cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, vowed to broaden military attacks on Gaza, even if Hamas halts homemade shells fire or doesnât.
Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes fired lat on Monday night missiles at a club building in Beit Hanoun city in northern Gaza, wounding four people involving one woman and a child and causing severe damages to nearby houses.
In the meantime, Israeli media sources reported that a number of Palestinian resistance groups fired on Monday seventeenth homemade shells on southern Israeli areas near the Gaza Strip, including Sderot and the Negev. No causalities were reported.
In a related development, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated Monday his call for the resistance groups to stop homemade shells into Israel, urging them to take such a move even if Israel is cool towards it.
Abbas told the Associated Press Telelvision News that the resistance groups should take that step
â Israel strikes whenever and wherever it wants, therefore we should do our duties and throw the ball into Israelâs court by stopping the homemade shells fireâ, said Abbas.
Abbas had proposed a one-month-old ceasefire in Gaza , to be extended later to the West Bank. The resistance groups insist that Israel should halt all its attacks on Gaza and the West Bank before they commit to Abbsâs proposal.
Israel appeared apathetic to the ceasefire offer, demanding the Palestinians to stop the homemade shells beforehand, claiming that last Novemberâs ceasefire was enough.
Both Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire last November after Israel killed 19 Palestinian civilians including eight children of the same family in northern Gaza. Since then Israel has continued attacks on the West Bank, while the resistance groups have used to âretaliatingâ with rocket fire frequently.
Almost two weeks ago, Hamas resumed intensified homemade shells fire into Israel, amidst internecine fighting with the rival Fatah. The infighting came to a halt, while Israeli attacks began heavily, killing so far about 52 Palestinians including Hamasâs operatives and eight children and wounding approximately 200 others.
Currently, representatives of Fatah and Hamas are holding talks in Cairo to end their infighting and come out with a unified position on the ceasefire with Israel.
Egyptâs foreign minister, Ahmad Abu eL-gheit, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to halt fire, urging the Palestinians to end their confrontations once and for all.
Infighting between the rival parties on mid-May claimed the lives of 50 Palestinians, the deadliest since the two established a unity government on March.