A Palestinian man was killed and an Israel Defense Forces soldier was wounded Thursday morning in fierce fighting between troops and gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya.
Hours earlier, a large contingent of IDF infantry and armor units moved into the ruins of three former settlements in northern Gaza in the early hours of Thursday, after Qassam rockets fired from the area hit the southern coastal city of Ashkelon for the second time in two days.
Beit Lahiya is situated close to the settlements, when troops were to establish a buffer zone to prevent fire on southern Israel.
IDF tanks and helicopter gunships fired at militant positions inside the town. The gunmen responded with automatic weapons fire. Ambulances raced to the scene, but there were no immediate reports of casualties
Before daybreak, IDF troops and some 15 tanks entered the areas where Nissanit, Dugit and Elei Sinai had stood. As ground forces edged forward, artillery and Israel Air Force aircraft struck targets in the area, aiming at bases and groups of militants.
The troops also entered the Al-Atara neighborhood close to Beit Lahiya, from where the rockets were fired at Ashkelon.
For more background on the invasion of North Gaza, click 11 Months Later, IDF Re-enters Former Jewish Towns in Gaza
Hamas, according to the paper, was now demanding the release of 100 woman prisoners, and 30 prisoners who have already served sentences of 20 years.
An initial report regarding Hamas’s softening of its stance was released Wednesday evening, but as of Thursday morning officials in the defense and security establishments had yet to respond.
The government refused to negotiate, calling the kidnappers’ demands “extortion.”
The full details of Wednesday’s offer have not been disclosed, but Palestinian sources said that the kidnappers would consider releasing Shalit at a time they would determine if Israel would agree to a plan for the gradual release of prisoners, Army Radio reported.
“Eight people were lightly wounded Wednesday evening when Palestinians in Gaza fired two Qassam rockets at the southern coastal city of Ashkelon on Wednesday evening. One of the rockets slammed into a southern neighborhood and the second landed in the Zikim area. Eight people suffered from shock, including two seven-year-old children, and were treated by Magen David Adom paramedics.
Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility for the two Qassam rockets fired into Ashkelon.”