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Israel pulls soldiers out of Gaza camps ahead of Ramadan

A Muslim girl walks past Israeli border police in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday.
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli soldiers finished pulling back from positions in major Palestinian refugee camps and cities in northern Gaza Friday, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced the troop redeployment late Thursday, saying Israel wanted to ease the burden on innocent Palestinian civilians.

The Israeli military also said the move was being made to honor the start of the holy month of fasting and prayer.

Ramadan began in Israel Friday. In some parts of the world it began Thursday; in others it begins Saturday.

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in the two weeks since Israel began a major offensive in northern Gaza, following the deaths of two Israeli children in a Qassam rocket attack in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, less than a mile from the Gaza border.

That attack followed numerous other rocket attacks that killed Israelis.

The Israeli offensive that began September 29 focused on the Jabalya refugee camp, the largest in Gaza, and the nearby towns of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, main launching grounds for the homemade rockets.

It was not clear exactly how many Israeli troops were involved in the operation.

"IDF forces operating in the northern Gaza Strip are redeploying in order to combat the launching of Qassam rockets terrorizing the city of Sderot and enable their residents and the ones of other communities to go about their daily lives and to ease the humanitarian situation before the months of Ramadan," an IDF statement said Friday.

It was unclear whether any of the Israeli troops in Gaza were returning to Israel.

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