At least 12 Palestinians, most of them armed militants, have been killed as Israel launched a limited ground incursion into the Gaza Strip. Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau that the violence is adding to the hardships in the territory following the Palestinian civil war earlier this month.
Israeli tanks pushed into northern and southern Gaza in a fresh attempt to halt Palestinian rocket attacks. Heavy clashes erupted as Palestinian militants fought back with automatic weapons and anti-tank missiles.
In Gaza City, a senior commander from the Islamic Jihad's rocket unit was killed when his car exploded. The group said the car was targeted in an air strike, but Israel denied involvement.
It was the heaviest fighting since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza two weeks ago, after routing the forces of the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel Cabinet Minister Tzahi Hanegbi said rocket attacks will not be tolerated.
Hanegbi told Israel Radio that the Hamas takeover of Gaza will not prevent the army from taking necessary action to reduce terrorist activity.
But Palestinians say the Israeli raids have made a bad situation even worse.
Safwat Kahalut, a journalist in Gaza, told Israel Radio that the people are in despair, because Israel has sealed off its borders with Gaza and there is no money and little food.
Israel has tightened economic sanctions on Hamas, a group that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state. At the same time, Israel plans to release hundreds of millions of dollars in withheld tax revenues to the moderate government of President Abbas in the West Bank.
Responding to the Israeli raids, Hamas accused Mr. Abbas of conspiring with Israel to bring down the government in Gaza.