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Israelis leave Gaza

The six-day incursion, designed to stop rocket attacks, has left dozens of Palestinians dead.

By Washington Post
Published November 8, 2006


JERUSALEM - Most Israeli forces withdrew before dawn Tuesday from the northern Gaza Strip, ending a six-day military operation that killed more than 60 Palestinians, more than half of them from the armed groups at war with the Jewish state.

Some Israeli soldiers remain in north Gaza, the main launch site for crude rockets that Palestinian gunmen frequently fire into Israel. Armed Palestinians and Israeli forces clashed several times in the hours after most Israeli tanks and troops left the northern strip, leaving at least seven Palestinians dead.

The Israeli push into Beit Hanoun, an agricultural town of roughly 28,000 people, was designed to stop the rocket fire into Israel. The rockets, known generically as Qassams, pack little explosive force and rarely kill Israelis.

The frequency of the rocket fire has been declining in recent months, but remains a daily menace to tens of thousands of Israelis who live near the Gaza border. The number of rockets that landed in and around the city of Sderot rose during the operation, lightly injuring several Israelis.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said military operations, usually airstrikes and artillery fire, would continue until the rocket attacks end. The Israeli military reported that five rockets landed in southern Israel - four in the city of Ashkelon north of Gaza - after it declared the operation over.

In a statement announcing the troop withdrawal, the Israeli military said it had seized "large amounts of weaponry" during the operation. The war material seized included Qassam launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, mines, assault rifles and ammunition.

The military said dozens of Palestinians were taken to Israel for questioning.

Palestinian health officials said 62 Palestinians, more than a third of them civilians, were killed in the Israeli operation and in fighting Tuesday as the bulk of the troops departed. More than 250 Palestinians were wounded, health officials said.

An Israeli soldier was killed on the first day of fighting. Several other soldiers were wounded.

[Last modified November 8, 2006, 02:17:36]

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