Israeli aircraft attack tunnels along Gaza-Egypt border:Hot and Latest News
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Israeli aircraft attack tunnels along Gaza-Egypt border

Israeli air force strikes tunnels used for smuggling weapons along Philadelphi Route early Wednesday in response to Hamas' attack on Israeli forces Tuesday that left one soldier dead. Locals reported fleeing their homes in panic

Published: 01.28.09, 07:35 / Israel News

Israeli aircraft struck at tunnels used for smuggling goods and weapons on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt on Wednesday, hours before a US peace envoy was due to arrive in the Jewish state.

Residents of the Gaza town of Rafah and Hamas security officials said some people began to flee their homes in panic as the aircraft struck three times before dawn. There was no initial word of casualties.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed that Israel had carried out air strikes on smuggling tunnels in the town of Rafah.

The strike came as a response to Tuesday's attack by Gaza militants on an Israeli military vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while patrolling the Gaza border, killing one soldier and wounding three others, the army spokesman said.

An air strike shortly afterwards killed one Palestinian on a motorcycle whom the spokesman identified as the planner of the roadside bomb attack.

The exchanges were the first major military developments since Hamas and Israel declared separate ceasefires earlier this month after Israel's offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late on Tuesday that the killing of the man on the motorcycle was only an initial reaction and that Israel's full response was still to come.

Mitchell coming to region

Israel and Hamas are negotiating through Egyptian mediators on a longer-term truce. Hamas wants Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will not again fire rockets at Israeli towns.

Later on Wednesday, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrives in Israel to take the first steps towards reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

A former US senator and experienced mediator who helped end the Northern Ireland conflict, Mitchell began his regional tour in Cairo on Tuesday bearing a message from US President Barack Obama that the "moment is ripe" for peace talks.

He will meet Israeli leaders on Wednesday afternoon and visit the West Bank on Thursday to talk to Palestinian leaders, but Western diplomats said he would not meet Hamas officials.


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