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At least 12 Palestinians were killed and another 40 wounded Wednesday as IDF infantry and armored units swept into the northern and southern Gaza Strip to rout out Palestinian gunmen.
Overnight Tuesday, troops from the Givati Brigade, backed by tanks and attack helicopters, entered the southern Gaza Strip near the Sufa Crossing and began searching homes on the outskirts of Khan Yunis for terror suspects. Simultaneously, ground forces swept into an area near the Karni Crossing and began searching for tunnels and explosive devices.
Clashes erupted immediately and, in what sources in the Southern Command said was "fierce resistance," the Palestinians, some affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, fired anti-tank missiles at the incoming troops.
Two IDF soldiers were lightly wounded during the operation near Karni when their armored personnel carrier was hit by an anti-tank missile.
"The troops only went two kilometers deep into Gaza," a source in the Southern Command said. "And, as can be seen from the resistance, the terrorists were heavily deployed near the border, waiting to attack."
In a report strongly denied by the IDF, the Palestinians claimed that an IAF aircraft bombed a car and killed Ra'ad Fanuna, a high-ranking Islamic Jihad operative implicated in manufacturing Kassam rockets and firing them at the western Negev.
The IDF said that it was not behind the attack. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) refused to comment.
Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for the death of Fanuna, who had been wanted by Israel.
Palestinians also claimed that four people were killed, including a child, by a tank shell which hit a home in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaya. The IDF denied the report. The army did confirm, however, that troops had killed a number of gunmen in the area.
Also Wednesday, six Kassam rockets fired from northern Gaza landed in and around Sderot, and eight mortars landed in open areas in the western Negev. No casualties were reported in the attacks.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's office released a statement condemning the IDF operations.
"The crimes that were committed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation must be strongly condemned," read the statement.
The statement continued: "This bloody escalation, which was initiated by the Israeli government, is a distinct violation of the cease-fire, and will lead to a chain of retaliations and the prolonging of violence."
The PA chairman's office went on to say that "this aggression comes only a single day after the Sharm e-Sheikh summit and calls into question whether Israel really intends to seal an agreement and negotiate to end the occupation."
In another incident overnight Tuesday, one Palestinian gunman was killed and three more were wounded in a fire fight with soldiers near Jenin.
According to the IDF, troops operating in the area surrounded a building in which the gunmen were hiding. When the four attempted to escape, the soldiers opened fire, moderately wounding one of the gunmen, who was subsequently arrested.
The remaining gunmen fled back into the building. When they made another attempt to flee an hour later, IDF troops opened fire again and wounded them. The gunmen threw a bomb at the soldiers during the operation, but no troops were hurt in the incident.
The two were taken to Ha'emek Hospital in Afula and were set to be transferred to the Shin Bet for questioning.