Israeli forces killed 15 Palestinians, pressing a new offensive in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The deaths come a day after Israeli troops killed 12 Palestinians and an Israeli father of four was killed in a Kassam rocket strike on a college in Sderot.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was wrapping up an official visit to Japan, told reporters that Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups with their ongoing bombardment of southern Israeli cities like Sderot were “testing Israel’s patience” – a hint that a major military sweep of Gaza could be imminent.
Early Thursday evening, an Israel Air Force helicopter attacked a police roadblock near the Gaza City home of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, in which Palestinian officials said one person was killed and four others wounded. Haniyeh was not believed to be in the area – fearing Israeli assassination, he’s been in hiding for several weeks.
The Air Force had targeted Haniyeh’s empty office a day earlier. Israel has threatened to begin targeting Hamas leaders because of the rocket fire from other parts of Gaza.
An airstrike in Jabalya, a refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, killed four children under the age of 16, including three from the same family, Palestinian sources said.
The IDF has not yet commented on the strike.
Two members of the Popular Resistance Committees and a Hamas gunman died in two Israeli airstrikes in Gaza early Thursday. In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli troops killed an Al-Aksa Brigades gunman and a comrade from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in a shootout.
It was the second deadly raid on Nablus in as many days. Security officials said the crackdown was to prevent a planned terrorist attack by Nablus-based factions.