Factions in Gaza ready to face Israeli offensive
Armed Palestinian groups on Saturday said they were ready to face any Israeli strikes into the Gaza Strip, following reports that the Israeli government has given its initial nod to a new series of incursions into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, dpa reported.
Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Hamas' military wing, ruled out ground invasions into Gaza Strip, but he expected that the army would attack Gaza from the air.
He added that Hamas' Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades was prepared for any Israeli military escalation.
Meanwhile, Egypt's Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman warned Hamas that Israel would attempt to strike its leaders if the Islamic movement did not release an Israeli soldier it has held in Gaza since June 2006.
Egypt has been brokering a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza Strip in order to avoid a wide-scale offensive and ease the siege that Israel imposed on Gaza since Hamas took over the territory by force nearly a year ago.
Hamas has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire offer but Israel has demanded that the captive soldier Gilad Shalit be released under the deal. Hamas says Shalit should be dealt with as a separate issue.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli forces arrested 10 Palestinians during an early morning raid carried out in the south-east Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources and witnesses said on Saturday.
The witnesses said that at least seven tanks and four bulldozers rolled into the eastern territories of Rafah city after midnight and withdrew early in the morning.
During the incursion, Israeli helicopters provided air cover to the bulldozers which levelled a number of fields and destroyed at least three chicken farms, according to residents.
The Israeli soldiers broke into some houses, searched them and arrested 10 residents, the security sources said.
Clashes erupted between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli troops. There was no word on casualties.
Meanwhile, an armed Palestinian group claimed responsibility for firing a homemade rocket into southern Israel.
The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said the attack targeted Sderot city in response to the Israeli army operations.
The incursion took place about 1 kilometre to the east of the Rafah crossing point which Egypt opens from time to time as part of its efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hamas.