Israeli Military Offensive Is Open-Ended

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel's stepped up military operation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will continue indefinitely, given warnings that terrorist organizations are boosting their efforts to carry out attacks, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Monday.

Overnight, Israeli troops killed 10 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, after an Israeli soldier was killed by sniper fire.

Israeli troops and armored and engineering corps demolished two bridges in Beit Hanoun and a three-story building used by Palestinian gunmen to fire on Israeli troops in Khan Younis, both in the Gaza Strip.

Sergeant Doron Lev was shot and killed by a sniper in that building on Sunday morning. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack.

"The bridges were used as passage of movement for terrorist cells that launched Qassam rockets," the army said in a statement. The army re-deployed from Beit Hanoun following the operation.

On Sunday, the southern Israeli town of Sderot was hit with three Qassam rockets. The town was hit several times last week, causing minor injuries to several people.

Speaking in the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shemona, Mofaz said that military activity in the Gaza Strip and West Bank would continue due to information that terrorists were stepping up attempts to carry out attacks, Israel radio reported.

The army, Mofaz said, will position itself in every place it could to prevent the firing of Qassam rockets and there is time limit to the Israeli army operation.

Israel stepped up its offensive against terrorist organizations, their infrastructure and their leadership following a Hamas mine attack on a tank 10 days ago, in which four Israeli soldiers were killed and in response to the firing of rockets and mortars on Israeli communities.

Since then, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed, most of them armed militants in clashes with Israeli troops.

Mofaz told the cabinet on Sunday that Hamas had "suffered many continuous and painful strikes in the last week" and said Israel would continue to pressure the organization's infrastructure.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Mohammed Msemi, 52, reportedly died of a heart attack on Monday when soldiers came to search his home, according to the Palestine Media Center.

The Israeli army said that soldiers had ordered people out of the house and were search for terrorists believed to be hiding inside. About 20 minutes after they arrived the man had a heart attack and a military ambulance was called to help him, the army said.

According to Capt. Sharon Feingold, various terror organizations in Nablus have begun to work together, sharing know-how, technology and money.

Since the army started operating in Nablus in mid-November, they have arrested some 200 suspects among them 11 senior militants, Feingold said.

"[The army] has managed to stop 30 suicide bombers," Feingold said, and discovered two large explosives laboratories - one in a house and another mobile lab in a car.

Thirty-five Palestinians were arrested overnight in the West Bank in an Israeli sweep to nab terror suspects, the army said.

According to the Jerusalem Post, a Palestinian website on Monday quoted Nablus residents as saying that Israeli troops in the casbah area of the city had been accompanied by U.S. Marines in their search for terrorists.

The Israeli army said it was checking into the report.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has signed a coalition agreement with two political parties giving him a 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

The secular Shinui party, which won big in recent elections with 15 Knesset seats, will receive five ministerial posts. Earlier, Sharon signed an agreement with the National Religious Party, which won six seats in the Knesset.

Although Sharon now has a majority, negotiations are continuing to add other parties to the government and broaden the coalition government.

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