Israeli forces launched an overnight raid into the Gaza Strip, destroying what they said were weapons factories. Nine Palestinians were reported killed and more than 20 injured in clashes with Israeli troops during the operation.
Israeli tanks, supported by helicopter gun-ships rolled into several neighborhoods of Gaza City during the night. Soldiers blew up 13 workshops they said were used to make weapons. The army says Palestinian gunmen shot at the troops, who then returned fire. Palestinian witnesses say, however, that some of the casualties were non-combatants.
Israeli forces have made repeated incursions into various parts of the Gaza Strip recently in search of militants and suspected weapons factories.
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon talked of an impending incursion into Gaza to crack down on the militant group Hamas and its ability to launch attacks against Israelis. Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a crowded Tel Aviv bus last week, in which six people plus the bomber were killed.
In an interview with the Reuter news agency, a senior Hamas leader said that Mr. Sharon's attempts to crush Hamas were doomed to fail. Khaled Meshaal is quoted as saying that the only way to stop the Palestinian resistance against Israel is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
At the same time, Israeli troops continue to lay siege to the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. Mr. Arafat has refused to give in to Israeli demands to hand over about 200 of his men inside the compound. Israeli forces moved in on the compound, known as the "Mukata" last Thursday evening and have systematically demolished every building inside except the one where Mr. Arafat and his aides and security guards are staying.
Israel has come under stiff international criticism for its siege. The U.N. Security Council has adopted a compromise resolution demanding that Israel stop its actions around Mr. Arafat's compound. The resolution also condemns terrorist attacks and calls on the Palestinian Authority to bring those responsible to justice. The United States abstained in the vote, rather than use its veto power to kill the resolution.