Video attached,fresh strikes on Gaza (live feed): Hamas tried to shoot down an IAF plane at the weekend using an anti-aircraft missile, the air force said during a briefing it held on Sunday.
The IDF has said that Hamas possesses several shoulder-held ground-to-air missiles, and in air raids overnight Saturday, the IAF hit a Gaza mosque in which a number of them were stored.
Meanwhile, IDF troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City in one of the fiercest ground battles so far since the start of Operation Cast Lead as the army inched toward Gaza's population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive.
The fighting in the Sheikh Ajleen neighborhood erupted before dawn and continued into the morning as IDF infantrymen and tanks advanced toward Gaza City and its approximately 400,000 residents, Palestinian witnesses said. Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they ambushed the soldiers, leading to some of the heaviest fighting since Israel sent ground forces into the territory on Jan. 3.
Gunfire subsided in the early afternoon, with the IDF in control of buildings on the neighborhood's outskirts.
At least 14 people were killed in Sunday's fighting in and around Sheikh Ajleen, Palestinian health officials said. How many were gunmen and how many civilians was not immediately known.
There was no word on IDF casualties.
After dawn, Israeli troops were seen on the neighborhood's main street and in nearby orchards and fields.
At least 24 Palestinians had been killed across Gaza by early Sunday afternoon, according to Gaza health officials. Most were noncombatants, they said, including four members of one family killed when a tank shell hit their home near Gaza City.
The IDF has repeatedly stated that Hamas fighters are wearing civilian clothes and endangering civilians by operating out of heavily populated residential areas.
Overnight Saturday, IAF aircraft bombed over 60 Hamas targets in Gaza, including the home of Hamas military chief Ahmed Ja'abri.
Ja'abri was not expected to have been at home at the time as he is believed to be in hiding, possibly under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, in another bunker, or in an apartment building filled with civilians.
Also in overnight air raids, the IAF hit a mosque in Rafah which served as a training camp and meeting place for Hamas operatives as well as an anti-aircraft missile warehouse, the army said.
The air force also bombed nine tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor and about ten other weapons storehouses throughout the Gaza Strip.
An IDF official told Army Radio that soldiers reported killing over 40 Hamas gunmen during overnight operations, while troops themselves emerged unscathed.
At least 820 Palestinians, roughly half of them civilians, have died since Operation Cast Lead was launched on Dec. 27, according to Palestinian medical officials. Thirteen Israelis, among them 10 soldiers, have been killed.
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