Fierce fighting has broken out between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in northern Gaza, after Israel sent tanks into the area to try to stop rocket fire. At least one Palestinian is reported dead. The clashes came after the Israeli military moved into three former Jewish settlements nearby. Makeshift missiles had regularly been fired from these sites. Israeli political sources said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had effectively decided to carve out a buffer zone to halt the rocket attacks. But the premier’s office said that the offensive – a year after Israel pulled out of Gaza – would not amount to re-occupying parts of the Strip long-term.
The Gaza campaign began with the main goal of bringing home a captured soldier. The militants who seized Gilad Shalit have given no more information since their deadline expired on Tuesday for Israel to free hundreds of prisoners in exchange. Rockets hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday and Wednesday. No one was injured in either attack. A Palestinian policeman and at least one Hamas militant were reported killed by Israeli fire overnight.