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Israeli military blows up bridge in Gaza

IDF: Palestinian militants launched rockets from town

Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved from Erez checkpoint digging holes and obstructions on the main road from Beit Hanoun to Gaza.
Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved from Erez checkpoint digging holes and obstructions on the main road from Beit Hanoun to Gaza.

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BEIT HANOUN, Gaza (CNN) -- Hours after Palestinians fired rockets at Israel on Friday, Israeli tanks and troops sealed off this village in Gaza, blowing up a bridge connecting it to Gaza City and clashing with youths, Palestinian witnesses said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that the military was operating in Beit Hanoun and that it had detonated a bridge there. The IDF said the bridge was being used by Palestinian militants to launch Qassam missiles on Israel.

The Israeli ground troops were accompanied by helicopter gunships that provided covering fire with heavy machine guns. Witnesses said late Friday that the village has been sealed for several hours, with Israeli troops patrolling the streets, and bulldozers and tanks blocking the crossroad at Beit Hanoun junction. They said the main bridge between the village and Gaza City was demolished, as was a metalworks shop.

Palestinian medical sources said a 16-year-old Palestinian was killed and at least eight Palestinian youths were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces. Hospital sources also said a 24-year-old mentally retarded man was shot and killed in the central Gaza village of Maghazi.

Israeli media quoted Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz as saying Israel was planning a series of military activities in Gaza to fight terror infrastructure in areas where Israel says militants fired the Qassam rockets.

In the West Bank, Mofaz said, the military would focus much of its efforts on organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Tanzim that are active around Hebron. Mofaz made his comments on a visit Friday to a home in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, where four Palestinian rockets struck.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been labeled terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department. Tanzim is the term Israeli officials use to describe militia members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

The IDF said Palestinians fired six rockets from Gaza, with one landing at Erez and the sixth in a village near Sderot.

Although one of the rockets hit a house, according to Israeli police, no one was injured.

The attack followed an overnight raid by Israeli Apache helicopter gunships, which fired six rockets at Palestinian workshops early Friday, according to Palestinian security sources and witnesses. There were no reports of casualties.

The IDF confirmed that Israeli Air Force helicopters fired on a weapons workshop in southern Gaza early Friday.

Other incidents:

• The IDF said it arrested a wanted Tanzim militant in Tulkarem who was planning to carry out a suicide bombing.

• In Rafah, in southern Gaza, the IDF said it destroyed three buildings and blew up a tunnel that was being used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza.

• Israeli troops killed two Palestinians after a group of four armed Palestinians were confronted at Mount Ebal near Nablus, according to Israeli security sources. The sources said IDF troops spotted the four Palestinians near their position and sent out a patrol. The Palestinians opened fire and threw grenades, according to the Israeli sources. The governor of Nablus, Mahmoud Al-Alul, disputed the Israeli account, saying the road is regularly used by Palestinians to bypass Israeli checkpoints and was not near an Israeli military position.

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