GAZA,(Reuters) – Israel bombed the offices of Hamas lawmakers, destroyed a bridge and fired a tank shell that killed one Palestinian on Friday as part of a Gaza Strip offensive aimed at forcing militants to release a captured soldier.
Israeli forces withdrew overnight from central Gaza after two days of fighting, and an army statement said the troops had “currently completed their activities in the area”.
The Gaza Strip is ringed by Israeli tanks and troops. A contingent remains in the southern tip of Gaza, which troops entered on June 28 to try to force militants to free Corporal Gilad Shalit and to halt their cross-border rocket fire.
Israel has killed more than 80 Palestinians as part of the offensive.
Before withdrawing from central Gaza, Israeli troops fired a tank shell at a vehicle, killing one Palestinian and wounding another, Palestinian medics said.
Palestinian security sources said the men were driving on the main road in the territory when they came across Israeli tanks and troops, who had swept into central Gaza on Wednesday.
The Israeli army said troops shot in the air as the vehicle approached, then fired a tank shell. Palestinian security sources said the vehicle was reversing away from the tank when it came under fire.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli bulldozers overnight destroyed a large segment of the main central road and ripped down telephone and power lines.
“It’s like an earthquake hit the road,” Khamis Othman said while riding on a donkey cart with his son.
Stepping up attacks on the Hamas-led Palestinian government, an Israeli helicopter fired a missile into the north Gaza offices of several Hamas lawmakers, including Mushir al-Masri.
Masri has been outspoken in demanding that Israel release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, who was captured in a cross-border raid on June 25.
Masri also hailed an attack on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon in which Hizbollah guerrillas captured two soldiers.
An air strike on Thursday destroyed the office of Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Israeli warplanes also destroyed a bridge in central Gaza, wounding a civilian, Palestinian security sources said. It was the fourth bridge destroyed by Israel since the offensive in Gaza began two weeks ago.
Israel pulled all its troops and Jewish settlers out of Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation.