The prospect of peace in the Middle East has suffered a further setback after Palestinian militants and Israeli security forces clashed in the Gaza Strip.
Hundreds of Hamas supporters took to the streets of the Jabalaya refugee camp to express their support for militants, who they say, attacked an Israeli patrol.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said: “Today, in this demonstration we are celebrating the successful operation that the al Qassam brigades carried out. This was a natural reaction to fend off the aggression of the Zionist enemy who intended to encircle the fighters. This emphasises the success of the resistance.”
In the deadliest incident since Israel’s assault on Gaza 14 months ago, tanks, backed by attack helicopters, advanced into the territory.
Two Israeli soldiers are said to have died in an ambush. An Israeli defence force spokesman also claimed two militants had been shot dead.
Palestinian officials said five civilians, including a 10-year-old boy, had also been wounded.
Hamas has largely avoided direct engagement with Israeli troops since the three-week war with Israel early in 2009. Fourteen hundred Palestinians died in operation Cast Lead. Thirteen Israelis, most of them soldiers, also died in the fighting.