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Israeli soldiers move into southern Gaza Strip

The violence came as Israel continued its offensive in Gaza, which it began June 28, three days after Hamas militants tunnelled into Israel.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2006 12:13 IST

Israeli soldiers crossed into the Gaza Strip early on Thursday in a raid that captured a local Hamas militant leader and left his brother dead near the southern Gaza border town of Abasan, Palestinians witnesses and officials said.

As the soldiers -- backed by tanks and helicopter gunships -- moved into the area and took up positions on rooftops, militants began firing at them, sparking gunbattles that wounded two militants, Palestinian officials said.

Soldiers captured Younis Abu Daka, a local Hamas leader, Hamas officials said. His brother, Yousef, was killed in the fighting with the soldiers, Hamas said.

The army confirmed that it was involved in activity in the southern Gaza Strip early today.

The violence came as Israel continued its offensive in the Gaza Strip, which it began June 28, three days after Hamas-linked militants tunnelled into Israel, attacked an Israeli army post.

Israel said it would continue the offensive until Shalit was released and militants ceased firing rockets into Israel.

The army has routinely carried out night time raids into Gaza since the offensive began.

Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians -- most of them militants -- since the offensive began two months ago.

Palestinian officials fear that Israel, after battling Hezbollah guerrillas to a stalemate in Lebanon, now turn its attention back on Gaza.

First Published: Aug 24, 2006 12:13 IST