About 50 Israeli tanks moved back into northern Gaza early Wednesday and five Palestinians were killed in airstrikes as Israel pressed ahead with its nearly month-long Gaza offensive.
Israeli aircraft carried out at least three airstrikes as the troops moved in, killing five people and wounding 15, hospital officials said. Two of the five dead were militants, but the other three were not immediately identified, they said.
The Israeli military said forces were operating in northern Gaza as part of a campaign to stop terrorism and rocket barrages at Israel. The military said aircraft targeted three groups of militants who were approaching the troops. Exchanges of fire between the two sides were reported through the night.
A number of Israeli tanks and bulldozers also crossed into southern Gaza near Khan Younis on Tuesday, witnesses said. Just before the force entered, an Israeli helicopter dropped leaflets warning residents to stay indoors because the army was carrying out an operation against cells firing rockets into Israel, witnesses said.
The army confirmed it was operating in the area.
Also Tuesday, a Palestinian boy was killed and his father and sister wounded near Khan Younis. Palestinians blamed Israeli gunfire, but Israel denied that.
Israel launched a Gaza offensive on June 27, days after Hamas-linked militants captured an Israeli soldier and killed two others in a raid on an army post inside Israel. Israel later expanded its attacks to stop militants from launching rockets into southern Israel. More than 100 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, have been killed.
Israel has also been fighting Hezbollah on a second front in Lebanon after the Shiite group’s militants crossed into Israel and kidnapped two soldiers.
Early Wednesday, Israeli troops took over rooftops of several houses in northern Gaza, residents said, and Israeli aircraft blasted several houses of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists after warning people to leave.
In another tactic, the Palestinian phone company said more than 1,000 residents of Khan Younis received recorded messages from Israel warning them not to hide weapons or shield militants. The residents were apparently picked at random, phone company officials said.
Hospital officials said the 12-year-old boy, his 16-year-old sister and their father were shot in Khan Younis after they stumbled on an undercover army unit.
However, the military said no Israeli forces were operating in the Khan Younis area. The army said the only shooting incident then was near the Kissufim crossing 3 miles away, where troops fired at a group of people after they set off an explosive device next to the border. They did not hit them, the army said.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, about 20 Israeli jeeps entered the city of Ramallah on Tuesday night and surrounded a building there, Palestinian security officials said.
The officials said the Israeli army had warned Palestinian security officials to keep their patrols off the streets because an operation to arrest wanted militants was under way.
The army confirmed that it was conducting an operation in Ramallah.