GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli aircraft attacked homes owned by Palestinian militants and a metal workshop in the Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding seven people, medics and witnesses said.
The Israeli army said it had carried out several air strikes on buildings used to make and store weapons. Some had belonged to gunmen from the governing Hamas Islamist movement, it said.
Dozens of Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles withdrew from areas east and north of Gaza City after a two-day operation against gunmen that killed 30 Palestinians, around half of them civilians, witnesses and Palestinian security sources said.
The army confirmed the pullback, saying the operation had finished.
Israel’s month-long offensive into Gaza to recover a captured soldier and end cross-border rocket attacks has largely been overshadowed by heavy fighting against Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, but shows no sign of easing off.
At least 150 Palestinians, around half of them gunmen, have been killed in the assault.
Medics said five people including an elderly woman and a child were wounded when aircraft bombed the metal workshop in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. Militants often use workshops to make rockets for firing into the Jewish state.
Other attacks targeted homes belonging to militants. The army said it had warned the occupants to leave.
Besides the air strikes, troops backed by tanks have made regular forays into Gaza, usually for two to three days before withdrawing.
Israel has rejected demands for a prisoner exchange by the gunmen who captured Corporal Gilad Shalit by tunnelling under the border on June 25. Some of the gunmen came from Hamas.
In the wake of that raid, Israel planned to raze homes and other structures just inside Gaza’s border to stop militants from using them as cover to build tunnels for attacks and weapon smuggling, the YNet news Web site reported on Friday.
It quoted an unnamed senior officer in the army’s southern command as saying the aim was to “clean” a 1 km (0.6 mile) wide strip of land. It was unclear if this meant southern Gaza, where most tunnels have been found, or the entire coastal strip.
Spokeswomen for the army and the Defence Ministry said they had not heard of the plan.
Israel withdrew from Gaza a year ago after 38 years of occupation.