Power cut to northern Gaza Strip following Israeli air strike; rumors dispelled of Abbas hospitalization
The Israeli Air Force launched an aerial attack on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, reportedly to enforce a so-called "buffer zone" to prevent the launching of Qassam missiles onto Israeli territory from the Strip.
Reports claim that two missiles were fired by Israeli helicopters, hitting the northern Gaza offices of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Beit Lahia and Gaza, as well a bridge leading to missile launching sites.
Six access roads on which the rockets are transported were also targeted. The Gaza "buffer zone" is more than five kilometers deep and includes the towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahia from which rockets have been launched in recent weeks.
One Israeli military spokesman told reporters that "Both buildings [hit in the strikes] are used by the Al Aqsa Brigades, which is involved both in planning and firing rockets at Israel."
Israel claims that the attacks are in response to continued rocket fire into Israel, most recently being the launching of two Qassam rockets, one of which landed near a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.
Israeli authorities have hinted that responses to such rocket attacks will not involve widespread ground operations, but rather, aerial attacks similar to that launched on Tuesday.
Israeli troops will reportedly announce to residents living in areas which are to be targeted of an imminent attack to give them time to seek shelter in their homes, which will supposedly not be targeted.
Palestinian sources announced that the attack resulted in a cut in power to the northern end of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the recent plan to target the Gaza security zone, and reportedly suggesting that a "firm" response to the Qassam attacks was in order.
Overnight raids continue in West Bank
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested five Palestinians overnight, including three members of the Hamas faction in the town of Hebron.
One member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was also arrested in Nablus, where Israeli soldiers reported that Palestinians opened fire on them.
]Rumors denied of Abbas' hospitalization
Rumors that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was hospitalized were denied on Tuesday by Abbas' son, Yasser.
Yasser revealed that although his father had in fact visited a hospital in the West Bank town of Ramalla, the purpose of the visit was to accompany fellow Fatah member Sakher Habbash, who had suffered from a stroke. Abbas is 69 years old.