IDF Troops Pull Out of Beit Hanun, Ending 2-day Incursion

Shin Bet chief: Captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is alive; IDF kills 6 Palestinians in Gaza.

Israel Defense Forces troops pulled out of the town of Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip late Monday, ending a two-day incursion that left behind a wide area of destruction, residents said.

About 15 tanks moved out of populated areas of Beit Hanun and headed toward the nearby Israeli border. Five helicopters hovered overhead, firing flares and machine guns to provide cover for the ground forces.

Earlier Monday, IDF troops clashed with Palestinian militants in the town, killing two and wounding four others, hospital officials said.

Residents said the troops caused heavy damage to houses, farmland and water pipes before they withdrew. Late Monday, the army confirmed its forces were out of Beit Hanun. It had no immediate comment on the reports of damage.

At least 10 Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into the western Negev on Monday morning. Two rockets reached the Ashkelon industrial zone, causing no damage.

Two people, including one child, were lighlty injured from shrapnel in Sderot. A number of cars and a home sustained damage.

The rockets came after Israel Air Force planes bombed the Palestinian Foreign Ministry building in Gaza City early Monday, the second attack on the ministry in a week, witnesses said.

An Associated Press reporter on the scene saw clouds of smoke rising from the already damaged building after the strike by an IAF plane.

The IAF also bombed the north Gaza offices of a Hamas-led security force before dawn on Monday, witnesses said.

The air strike destroyed the offices in the Jabalya refugee camp, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

IDF troops killed six Palestinians, including a civilian woman, in separate strikes Sunday in the northern Gaza Strip.

An Israel Defense Forces strike on northern Gaza Sunday afternoon killed two armed Popular Resistance Committees militants and wounded two others.

Earlier Sunday, the IDF attacked a vehicle carrying wanted Islamic Jihad militant Khaled Sha'alen, but Sha'alen managed to escape the car without injuries. Three other militants were wounded in the strike.

Three Hamas gunmen were killed, Hamas said, and at least 11 people were wounded in IAF air strikes on Beit Hanun earlier Sunday, including a child, hospital officials said.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian woman was killed by shrapnel during IDF tank shelling overnight near the closed airport in the southern Gaza Strip, which troops took over June 28 at the start of the Gaza offensive, Palestinian officials said.

The IDF said it had no immediate comment.

The IAF destroyed a tunnel dug by Palestinians underneath the fence on the Gaza Strip border early Sunday afternoon. The IDF said the tunnel was meant to allow militants to carry out terror attacks in Israel.

IDF tanks and armored personnel carriers approached the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza early Sunday, residents and Palestinian security officials said, as attack helicopters fired machine gun rounds to clear the area of militants.

A missile knocked out electricity in northern Gaza, residents said.

Armed Palestinians exchanged fire with IDF forces, and militants said they set off a land mine next to an IDF bulldozer building embankments near the residential areas of the town.

An Associated Press reporter in Gaza City heard an Israeli broadcast on a radio frequency usually used by a Hamas station calling on residents to stay out of the way of the fighting. "We are not gong to stop in Gaza until the terrorists hand over the soldier Gilad Shalit," said the broadcaster, apparently an IDF soldier, in broken Arabic.

Shin Bet chief: Captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is aliveShin Bet security chief Yuval Diskin said Sunday he believes the Israel Defense Forces soldier who was captured three weeks ago by militants from the Gaza Strip is alive, an official said.

Diskin made the comment during a closed meeting of Cabinet officials in Jerusalem, said one of the officials who attended it.

Israel invaded Gaza on June 28, three days after Hamas-backed militants tunneled under the border and attacked an Israeli army post, killing two soldiers and capturing Corporal Gilad Shalit, 19.