KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Five Palestinian militants were killed and four Israeli soldiers wounded during a large-scale Israeli military operation in southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics and Israeli army said Tuesday.
Palestinian residents of al-Fakhari village, east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, said that 30 Israeli tanks, armored vehicles and bulldozers stormed the village at predawn in the day.
A wounded Palestinian is carried to a hospital after an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip Dec. 11, 2007.(Xinhua/AFP Photo)
Mahmoud Abu Tahha, a 55-year-old resident, said a column of tanks and personnel armored vehicles stormed the village before dawn as bulldozers cleared up the ground of roadside bombs.
Abu Tahha said that Israeli army tanks blocked the main road of Sallah el-Dein and isolated the two southern towns of Rafah and Khan Younis. They also prevented traffic and personal movement.
Israeli soldiers stormed dozens of houses in the village and detained at least 70 people, over the age of 18, among whom included the head of the village, said Abu Tahha.
He added that two areas, al Fakhari and al-O'mour, were completely under strict Israeli army closure, where residents were kept indoors while Israeli soldiers stormed houses and made rude searching.
Palestinian security sources said that the Israeli army tanks and bulldozers were backed by helicopters and drones, adding that several militant groups carried out a series of attacks with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants attend the funeral of their comrade in Beit Hanun. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)
An Israeli army spokesman said four Israeli soldiers were injured when Palestinian militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli armored vehicle, adding that the injured soldiers were evacuated to an Israeli hospital for treatment.
Witnesses said that an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at a house under construction in the area, where a group of Islamic Jihad (Holy War) militants were holding up.
Kamal Musa, chief of public information in the European Hospital in southern Gaza Strip, said that three people were killed and a fourth one died later of his sustained wounds.
Palestinian medics in northern Gaza Strip said that another militant, with Islamic Jihad group, was also killed before dawn in an Israeli airstrike at a group of militants in northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun.
A Jihad spokesman said the militant was killed during an exchange of fire between his movement's militants and Israeli soldiers stationed near the borders of the town.
Both Hamas armed wing al-Qassam Brigades and Jihad's armed wing Saraya al-Quds claimed responsibility for launching dozens of homemade mortar shells at the invading Israeli army forces.
"They (the Israelis) believe that such operations will harm the resistance and weaken it, but they are mistaken, our people are so strong and resistance would continue to confront the occupation," said Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum.
Since mid-June, Israel has carried out frequent airstrikes and ground incursions into Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli border communities.
Yet the ongoing Israeli army operation is the largest one since mid-June when Hamas ousted President Mahmoud Abbas' security forces and took control of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli operation into the area was carried out one day before Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators are set to start their first round of talks on those final-status issues.
Palestinian and Israeli leaders agreed with U.S. President George Bush at a high-profile peace conference held last month in Annapolis in the U.S. to begin their talks on final-status issues on Dec. 12.
In response to Israel's military operation, Abbas' spokesman accused Israel of trying to thwart final-status negotiations before they could be started on Wednesday.
"The Israeli government's determination to continue the offensives, assassinations and expanding settlements boosts the doubts about the Israeli intentions regarding the negotiations," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told reporters.
At least four Palestinian militants were killed in the Gaza Strip since this morning in an Israeli offensive, and "this is an awful crimes and aggression," Abu Rudeineh said.
"It is difficult to go on with the negotiation process under the assassinations, deliberate killing, land confiscation and other procedures that don't suit the spirit of the peace process," he added.