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Israel raids Gaza camp after mortar attacks
Updated: 2004-12-22 11:15

Israeli troops and armoured vehicles raided a Palestinan refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday in what the army called an operation to halt mortar bomb and rocket attacks on Jewish settlements.

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the start of the night-time operation in Khan Younis.

Witnesses said some Palestinian families fled their homes as about 30 Israeli armoured vehicles, including bulldozers, rumbled into the camp.

Last week, the army launched a two-day raid in Khan Younis, killing 11 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, after mortar bombs and makeshift rockets fired from the area killed a foreign worker in a Jewish settlement and wounded 19 other people.

"Since we pulled out on Saturday night, Palestinians have fired 15 mortar bombs and Qassam rockets. We said at the time we would have to go back in if someone didn't take care of the problem," a military source said.

"We asked some residents to leave their homes to ensure they are not hurt. They will be able to return once the operation is over," the source said.

"The operation is aimed at gunmen and those launching mortar bombs and Qassams. Several buildings are slated for demolition. They are uninhabited and used as cover by the squads.

"We have no intention of staying there for a long time."

Last week's raid on Khan Younis was the largest Israeli incursion in the Palestinian territories since the death of President Yasser Arafat in November.

Israel had cut back on military operations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip following Arafat's death, in an apparent bid to bolster a new and more moderate Palestinian leadership before a Jan. 9 election to choose his successor.

But militants have vowed no let-up in their attacks on Jewish enclaves in Gaza as Israel presses ahead with a plan to remove all 21 settlements in the coastal strip and four of 120 in the West Bank in 2005.

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