Troops kill 12 Palestinians in Gaza Strip, West Bank

news3_20_7.jpgGAZA (Reuters) — Israeli troops killed 12 Palestinians in clashes in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank on Wednesday, medics said, including four fighters and two civilians as tanks pushed into a central Gaza refugee camp.

The Gaza raid was part of a three-week-old offensive to recover a captured soldier and halt rocket fire.

Shooting broke out around the Maghazi Camp as Israeli troops crossed the border into the territory before dawn.

Three fighters from the governing Hamas group were killed, along with one man from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’  Fateh faction, medics and Palestinian security sources said.

The two civilians killed included a 16-year-old.

Later in the day, Israel killed three Palestinians in Gaza in what the army called two air strikes against fighters.

Medics did not specify if the dead, including a woman, were armed.

More than 60 Palestinians, including 10 children, were wounded in Gaza clashes on Wednesday, medics said.

The United States stepped up the evacuation of Americans in Gaza. Officials said 68 US nationals were pulled out of the Strip on July 8 and another 104 on Wednesday.

Gaza has been under siege since fighters captured an Israeli soldier in a raid over the border on June 25.

Around 100 Palestinians, over half of them fighters, have been killed in the offensive.

Israeli planes have also bombarded buildings of the Hamas-led Palestinian government and knocked out bridges, roads and a power plant.

West Bank fighters killed

In the West Bank, troops backed by armoured vehicles surrounded a Palestinian security compound in the city of Nablus and killed three fighters of Abbas’ Fateh faction, medics said.

Troops detained Palestinian security men at the scene, an Israeli military source said.

Israeli bulldozers then tore down a building in Nablus used by the Hamas-led Interior Ministry as well as offices used by a security service that falls under Hamas’ jurisdiction.

Israel has bombed several buildings in Gaza used by the Islamic group Hamas and the government it leads, including the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

The army has been operating near Maghazi, a district of rundown cement block buildings in the densely-populated strip of 1.4 million, to track down fighters.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for the capture of Gilad Shalit, 19, by three groups, including Hamas’ armed wing. Israel has rejected their demand to swap more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for the tank gunner.

Israel is also fighting Hizbollah fighters in Lebanon after they abducted two soldiers in a cross-border raid last week and killed eight others.

Israel has said it will continue fighting on both fronts until it gets its soldiers back and removes the threat on its borders.

Both Hizbollah and Palestinian fighters have continued to fire rockets into Israel, though the Lebanese fighters have far more powerful and longer-range rockets than the homemade missiles used by the fighters in Gaza.

Israel pulled troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip last summer after 38 years of occupation.

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