Palestinian killed, 3 injured in Israeli operation

Israeli tanks enter northern Gaza Strip


A Palestinian was killed and two were injured on Tuesday as Israeli tanks carried out an operation in the northern Gaza Strip, a medical official said.

Seven Israeli tanks entered the northern part of the Gaza Strip, near the town of Beit Hanun, early on Tuesday, as Britain and Australia urged Israel to refrain from settlement building on the West Bank.

The tanks, which entered around 400 meters (yards) into the Palestinian territory, were accompanied by a bulldozer, witnesses and members of the Hamas-run security forces said, but it was unclear whether a demolition was planned.

Israel has often demolished structures and cleared land along Gaza's border with the Jewish state, citing security concerns.

An Israeli military spokesman told AFP he could neither confirm nor deny any incursion.

Israel and Hamas are formally committed to a truce agreed after Israel's devastating 22-day Operation Cast Lead, which ended in January 2009.

But in recent months, armed Palestinian groups have fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel, prompting retaliatory airstrikes by the Israeli military.

Britain and Australia, meanwhile, urged Israel to refrain from settlement building on the West Bank and called for a "return to direct talks" between Israel and the Palestinians.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Middle East peace process had featured in Tuesday's summit with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd and defense ministers Liam Fox and Stephen Smith.

"Our joint belief (is) that the parties involved should return to direct talks and refrain from acts that undermine confidence such as settlement building," Hague told reporters.

It follows calls from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday for Israel to freeze settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, after Israeli media reported that Israel is to approve 1,400 new settler homes.

That push, reportedly into east Jerusalem, is in defiance of pressure to halt settlement building that has stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians halted direct talks with Israel, brokered by the United States, in September after Israel refused to extend a moratorium on settlement building. Israel says the construction should be an issue discussed in direct talks.