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Israeli Forces Kill at Least 2 Palestinians in Raid on Gaza Tunnel

Israel war planes have struck at smuggling tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Palestinian officials say at least three people died and several others were wounded in the attack.

The strike was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat attacks on a system of tunnels in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Elie Isaacson tells VOA the strike was primarily in retaliation for a mortar attack from Gaza that lightly wounded one Israeli soldier.

"I cannot tell you that we respond to every single attack, but I can tell you that it has been a very clear policy that we have operated on, that these kinds of attacks will not be tolerated," he said. "This is an attack in response to mortar fire the previous day. We had another incident edge of Gaza just an hour beforehand. This sort of thing will not go unnoticed and will not go without a response."

Israeli officials target the tunnels because they say militants in Gaza use them to smuggle in weapons and explosives for attacks on Israel.

Journalist Mohammed Dawwas, reporting for VOA in Gaza City, says the tunnels serve to bring in luxury foods and other items that are not allowed past the checkpoints into the strip under restrictions enforced by Israel and Egypt.

"This is the only way now people, merchants bring goods to Gaza," said Dawwas. "Many, many things, like for example, metal, like all kinds of food, children's toys."

Israel usually allows scores of trucks to cross daily, carrying basic food items and medical supplies. But things like cigarettes, snack foods, coffee, and candy are smuggled through the tunnels.

Most construction supplies, including concrete, glass, and steel pipes are also banned because of Israeli concerns the Hamas militants who rule Gaza might use them to build bunkers and other means to attack Israel.

In the past eight years, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 700 rockets at communities in southern Israel.

Israeli officials say there have been more than 200 rocket attacks from Gaza since the end of a 22-day Israeli assault that Palestinian officials say killed about 1,400 people.