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Israelis Kill 6 in Attack on Hamas Meeting

As doctors stitched a cut next to his eye, he recounted grisly scenes of dismembered bodies. "No words can describe this destruction, this hellish damage, which I will remember of the rest of my life," he said.

Hamas official Ismail Radwan pledged to hit back at Israel. "It was a terrible, bloody massacre, and the Zionists will pay a heavy price for it," he said.

Earlier in the day, Israel sent tanks and troops into southern Gaza, expanding its operation against militants holding the captive soldier, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and firing rockets.

Soldiers rolled into Gaza from the Kissufim crossing, once the main access point to Jewish settlements in the territory, and an access road 2 1/2 miles to the south, menacing the nearby city of Khan Younis and town of Deir al-Balah. Troops took control of Gaza's main north-south road, cutting the coastal strip in two.

Palestinians were staying off the road because Israeli snipers were on rooftops, and the road was within shelling range of tanks that had taken up position earlier Wednesday.

The Israeli military confirmed that forces were operating in southern Gaza, but gave no details.

At the same time, Palestinian security officials and witnesses said troops had pulled out of the area of the defunct airport in Dahaniye, also in southern Gaza, where they had been operating since the offensive began on June 28. The campaign is by far the largest since Israel pulled out of the coastal strip last summer, destroying all 21 Jewish settlements there.

Abu Obeideh, the Hamas military wing spokesman, said militants fired two rockets at Israel's power station in the southern city of Ashkelon on Wednesday morning. The military said two rockets were launched, but one fell near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai just over the border from Gaza, and the other fell in Palestinian territory.

Israel launched its offensive three days after Palestinian militants linked to the Hamas-led government captured Shalit in a cross-border raid. The operation was expanded last week to northern Gaza to try to halt Palestinian militants from firing homemade rockets into Israel.

Israeli forces have knocked out much of Gaza's power supply and left more than 50 Palestinians dead, most of them gunmen. One Israeli soldier also has died.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister, Amir Peretz, ordered the new incursions into Gaza after Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Monday he would not free Shalit security officials said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.

Mashaal called Shalit a prisoner of war and demanded a prisoner swap _ which Olmert has ruled out.


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© 2006 The Associated Press