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Israelis launch Gaza air strikes




(CNN) -- Israel launched air strikes in central Gaza and Gaza City early Wednesday in retaliation for dozens of recent Qassam rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli citizens, the Israeli military said.

No casualties were reported from any of the incidents.

Palestinian sources said the attacks knocked out electricity in Gaza City, where one of the targets was an office of the ruling Palestinian Fatah faction.

The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged the attack, but had no comment on the power outage or two subsequent attacks in the city blamed on Israeli forces.

The Palestinian sources and the IDF said Israelis also attacked the office of the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) at the Al Buraj refugee camp in central Gaza.

Also on Wednesday, Israel said it had sealed 15 offices of "Daawa" organizations, claiming the groups operate under the guise of a charity association but actually help fund terrorism.

The offices were sealed in a joint Israel Defense Forces and Civil Administration effort against the infrastructure of the Palestinians Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, the IDF said in a statement.

"The 'Daawa' organizations were declared illegal following the financial support they provided for families of suicide bombers and imprisoned terrorists," the statement said. "This financial and social support provides an incentive for terrorists to carry out attacks and stems an increase of public support of these terror organizations."

Israel's defense minister has promised to keep up the pressure on Palestinian militants and more were arrested overnight, an IDF representative said Wednesday.

According to the Israeli military, 24 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were picked up in raids in the West Bank.

Over the last five days, Israeli forces have arrested 412 "wanted Palestinians" in response to dozens of Qassam rockets being fired into Israel.

Separately, the Israeli military launched an airstrike early Tuesday on three access routes in northern Gaza, which the IDF said was being used by Palestinian militants to launch missiles against targets in Israel.

According to the IDF, the strike was designed to prevent Palestinians from reaching an area east of the town of Beit Hanoun used as a launch site.

Palestinian sources said three missiles struck near bridges in Beit Hanoun and that no one was injured. They also said two missiles were fired at a Fatah office in Khan Younis, but no one was injured.

The IDF said one missile targeted a building used by Fatah in Khan Younis and a second hit a building used by Hamas militants as a money changing office.

The rounding up of suspected Palestinian militants in the West Bank and airstrikes into Gaza by the Israeli military continue two days after Hamas' leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, told reporters his militant group would stop attacks against Israelis.

It is an announcement that has failed to impress Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

"I am not satisfied with Mahmoud al-Zahar's declaration," he told Israeli Army Radio. "Hamas did unforgivable acts and we need to dictate new rules of the game."

Hostilities between Israel and Palestinian militants have escalated since an explosion at a Hamas rally on Friday in Gaza that killed at least 19 people.

Militants blamed the blast on Israel, which denied the claim. On Friday and Saturday, Palestinian militants fired at least three dozen Qassam rockets into the country, wounding at least five civilians, Israelis said.

Israel called it another example of Palestinian militants mistakenly setting off a blast that was intended to be used against Israelis. The Palestinian Authority announced that the blast was an accident, and was not Israel's responsibility.

"Hamas fired at Israeli sovereign territory after the disengagement, they killed innocent Palestinians at a rally and blamed Israel for it and to strengthen their lie they fired Qassam rockets on Sderot," Mofaz charged. "We will not let it pass quietly."

Israel's actions Tuesday came after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won an internal party procedural vote. (Full story)

The vote Monday was seen by many political observers as a referendum on Sharon's leadership and his decision to pull settlers and troops out of Gaza.

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