Israel retreats to Gaza outskirts

January 16, 2009 -- Israeli ground troops have been forced to retreat to the outskirts of Gaza City after facing strong resistance from the Palestinian fighters.

The development came on Friday, after two days of intensified clashes between the Israeli army and the Palestinian resistance fighters.

On Thursday, the fighting killed at least 23 people and left the southern district of Tel el-Hawa in Gaza City severely damaged, DPA reported. Home to 400,000 people, Gaza City witnessed one of its worst days of fighting since Israel launched a ground invasion on January 3 following a week of nonstop air raids.

On the 21st day of Tel Aviv's offensive against Gaza, six Palestinians, including three children, were killed in Israeli airstrikes and tank fire -- bringing the total Palestinian death toll in the Gaza offensive to at least 1,133.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in the West Bank on Thursday for talks with Palestinian officials, condemned the 'unbearable' situation in Gaza and urged Israel to declare an urgent unilateral humanitarian truce.

After the Thursday conflicts, Israel's ground troops withdrew from Gaza City while its warplanes and helicopters pounded another 40 targets across the Palestinian coastal strip.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, has vowed to avenge the death of its interior minister Said Siam killed on Thursday afternoon in an Israeli air strike on his brother's home in al-Sheikh Ridwan district in Beit Lahiyah.

Meanwhile, Palestinian groups in Gaza have continued firing rockets and mortar shells into Israeli towns, injuring three Israelis in the towns of Kiryat Gat and Eshdod on Friday. Al-Jazeera reported.

Hamas maintains 34 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 96 others have been injured in clashes with the Palestinian fighters, but Tel Aviv officials deny the figures, putting the number of Israeli casualties at 13 killed and 85 injured .(MRS/MMN @ PRESS TV)

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