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Israeli Troops Enter Gaza, Raid West Bank, 7 Palestinians Killed

Israeli troops carried out a major military operation in the Gaza Strip for the first time since Israel disengaged from the area last year. At least seven Palestinians were killed in a series of clashes with Israeli forces - both in Gaza and the West Bank.

A squad of Israeli commandos moved about three kilometers into the Gaza Strip and engaged Islamic Jihad militants in a fierce gun battle, killing four militants. Israeli troops say the strike was a preemptive effort aimed at stopping the militants from launching rockets against targets in southern Israel.

Since Israel's disengagement from Gaza last year Israeli troops have crossed into Gaza to search for and disarm mines but their incursions have been limited to just a few meters. Israeli Army Captain Jacob Dallal says from now on, Israeli forces will take whatever action is necessary to stop the ongoing rocket attacks.

"Our policy has been and remains that we are going to do what we need to do to stop the Kassam rocket fir," he said. "We have asked the Palestinians in every possible way to stop the fire and they simply do not."

There was also violence in the West Bank, where Israeli troops killed three Palestinian militants in separate incidents.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called for militant groups to stop the rocket attacks against Israel, called the Israeli raid an unjustified escalation that will lead to further instability.

Meanwhile, four Hamas legislators who represent Jerusalem in the Palestinian parliament say they will fight an order by Israel demanding they give up their Jerusalem residence permits. Israel's interior minister says he will revoke the residency permits unless the four legislators resign their seats. The Hamas legislators say they will appeal the order to Israel's Supreme Court.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and Israeli officials say because of that the Hamas legislators have no right to the residency permits, which give Jerusalem residents freedom of movement inside Israel and numerous social benefits.