The Israel Defense Forces yesterday ended its latest operation in Khan Yunis, in which 11 Palestinians were killed.
Twenty-one Palestinians - all armed - were injured in the operation, according to the IDF. The Palestinians said three civilians were among those killed and that 50 were injured, including seven children and three journalists.
The IDF Southern Command said yesterday that the operation's end was "conditional" and warned that if attacks on Gush Katif continued, forces would return to Khan Yunis for an operation that would "be bigger and last longer."
Military sources also said continued Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot would "require an operation in the northern Strip, as well."
Eight Qassam rockets were fired at Sderot over the weekend, with no injuries. The IDF sent harsh messages to the Palestinian Authority that the attacks were an infraction of the understandings reached at the end of Operation Days of Awe in the fall.
On Friday night, the Israel Air Force hit two structures in Gaza where Qassam rockets were manufactured and stored. A structure in Rafah with a tunnel underneath it was also hit.
The operation in Khan Yunis began early Friday morning after 76 mortars were fired last week at settlements and IDF fortifications in the Gush Katif area. A foreign worker from Thailand was killed and two civilians and 11 soldiers were injured in the attacks.
Due to the increased number of mortars, up from an average of 50 in previous weeks, the IDF operation focused on finding launch areas and armed operatives in the Khan Yunis refugee camp. Armored corps, engineering forces, helicopters and drones participated in the operation, which involved major firefights with members of all terrorist organizations operating in Gaza.
Palestinians said vegetation had been uprooted and about 30 buildings were destroyed, leaving some 200 people homeless.
The IDF said most of the mortars were fired from multistory buildings, which had to be completely demolished to prevent the mortar fire. On Friday afternoon, an officer was moderately injured in the foot by shrapnel when an anti-tank missile hit the defensive plates on the bulldozer he was operating.
A senior IDF officer told Haaretz that troops had left the area "so as not to give an excuse to the terror organizations to blame Israel for escalation, and so we are not suspected of trying to sabotage the elections in the Palestinian Authority."
Troops were to remain in a staging area in Gush Katif in case a renewal of the operation was ordered.