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Israeli-Palestinian truce battered by Gaza raid, rockets

Tel Aviv/Gaza_(dpa) _ A fragile Israeli-Palestinian truce in the Gaza Strip took a battering overnight Tuesday and on Wednesday as Israeli troops raided the salient and militants launched a barrage of rockets at the south of the Jewish state in response.

It was the most serious violence in the Gaza Strip since June 19, when the truce went into effect, and left six Palestinians - five militants and a civilian woman - dead, medical officials said, and several Israeli soldiers wounded.

An Israeli military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that troops had entered the enclave on Tuesday night to destroy a 250-metre-long tunnel being dug under the border, which, she said, was being prepared to aid in the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers.

The operation was a "pinpoint" one, she said, to destroy an "immediate threat."

Militants from the Islamic Hamas organization traded fire with the soldiers and the movement's armed wing said it had also fired at least 10 mortar shells at the Israeli force.

At one stage, an Israeli aircraft also targeted the Hamas militants. The Israeli force left the Strip early Wednesday morning.

Hamas' armed wing said it would "confront any aggression against our people and our militants," and accused Israel of violating the truce.

The IDF, for its part, said in a statement Wednesday morning that the construction of the tunnel close to the border and aimed at facilitating the abduction of Israeli soldiers, was "a blatant violation of the ceasefire."

The IDF had had no intention of disrupting the truce, the statement added.

Gazan militants responded to the Israeli operation by launching at least 35 missiles toward southern Israel overnight and on Wednesday morning.

In response, Israel closed the Gaza crossing points, stopping the flow of goods into the impoverished salient. Under the June 19 truce, the Gaza militias undertook to halt actions against Israel, including rocket fire, and Israel agreed to widen the amount and types of goods allowed into Gaza.

Israel has adopted this sanction before, as militants in the Strip violated the truce by launching rockets.

Israel imposed its blockade on the Strip last year, after Hamas routed forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and took over security bases in the enclave.

The Israeli siege was tightened even further around the turn of the year, following an intensification in the rocket attacks on southern Israel from the salient. dpa sar jab ls wjh bve


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