JERUSALEM – Palestinians dug in behind walls and embankments in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday after Israel sent in troops and tanks, and bombarded bridges and a power station to pressure militants to release a captured soldier.
At mid-afternoon, warplanes fired missiles at open fields in northern Gaza in an effort to prevent Palestinians from launching rockets from the area, the military said. Separately, Israel attacked a rocket-making factory in southern Gaza.
No casualties were reported.
Later, Israeli aircraft struck a training camp of the Hamas militant group in Rafah, witnesses said. The army had no immediate comment.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who spoke after Israel launched a ground offensive into the southern Gaza Strip, said that Israel wouldn’t balk at “extreme action” to bring home a soldier captured by Palestinian militants.
He said the incursion would continue in the coming days but that Israel did not intend to reoccupy the coastal strip.
“We have one objective, and that is to bring Gilat home,” he said, referring to Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Shalit, 19, was taken captive on Sunday in a Palestinian attack on a military post in southern Israel.
“We won’t hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family,” Olmert said at an awards ceremony at the prime minister’s residence.
He reiterated that Israel would not negotiate Shalit’s release with militant groups — repeating this point twice for emphasis.
He said Israel holds the Palestinians’ Hamas government, and the Hamas leadership in Syria, responsible for the current situation. MORE