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Israel withdraws its tanks from refugee camp in Gaza


GAZA CITY -- Israeli tanks pulled out of the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip yesterday and withdrew to Israeli territory, ending a two-day incursion that left at least 15 Palestinians dead. Sporadic shelling continued in the north section of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya condemned Israel and the U.S. in a sermon before Friday prayers, his most extensive public comments for more than two weeks.

Haniya called the Israeli military offensives in Gaza and Lebanon an attempt to establish regional dominance under the pretext of rescuing kidnapped soldiers.

"The aggression was there before the kidnapping of the soldiers," he said. "This aggression has been pre-planned by the leaders of the occupation unfortunately with the cooperation of the American administration."

Haniya, whose Hamas government has faced a U.S.-backed embargo on aid funds since its election four months ago, said the military offensives were a final attempt to topple the elected Palestinian government.

"No government on this planet has endured such a siege," he said.

Speaking in the packed and stifling Al Gharb Mosque in Gaza's Shatti refugee camp, Haniya said the true reasons for the invasion were to break the wills of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements, topple the Palestinian government and sow internal dissension amid the Palestinian ranks.

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