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Israel strikes Gaza to enforce buffer zone
Updated: 2005-12-27 14:27

GAZA - Israeli warplanes hit targets in the Gaza Strip early on Tuesday as Israel followed through on a threat to enforce a buffer zone in the northern Gaza Strip to stop militant rocket fire at Israel.

Helicopter gunships and fighter jets struck at least nine targets, cutting off electricity to a town in northern Gaza and cutting deep craters in half a dozen roads. Warplanes rocked Gaza City with two sonic booms at around dawn.

The Israeli army said it targeted two offices in Gaza used by the al-Aqsa Martyears Brigades, an armed group in President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, to plan attacks, and a bridge used to reach an area to fire rockets at Israel.

There were no casualties in the attacks which came after Israeli leaders vowed to intensify air strikes against militant targets in Gaza to halt rocket fire.

Early on Tuesday after two rocket strikes on farming communities in Israel, helicopters launched the first assaults and warplanes broke the sound barrier over Gaza.

"Both buildings (hit in the strikes) are used by the al-Aqsa brigades which is involved both in planning and firing rockets at Israel," an army spokeswoman said.
The north Gaza town of Beit Lahiya lost electric supply and half a dozen roads and a bridge were badly damaged by deep craters, witnesses said.

The makeshift rockets fired by Gaza militants rarely cause casualties, but could complicate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's campaign for re-election in a March ballot on the strength of a Gaza pullout he had said would boost Israel's security.

The Haaretz newspaper said the army would "take more aggressive action in northern Gaza," and carve out a so-called security zone to prevent rocket firing from northern Gaza.

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