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Palestinian Killed in Israeli Shelling of Northern Gaza

A Palestinian was killed when an Israeli tank shell hit his truck Friday, hospital officials said, and Israeli aircraft struck targets in several parts of Gaza.

Israeli forces also withdrew their tanks and bulldozers from central Gaza, and Palestinian militants fired three more homemade missiles at the Israeli town of Sderot, causing no injuries, the Israeli army said.

On June 28, Israeli forces invaded Gaza after Palestinian militants tunneled under the border and attacked an Israeli army post at a crossing, killing two soldiers and capturing a third, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19.

CountryWatch: Israel

On Wednesday, Israeli forces launched a second offensive in Lebanon after Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant Shiite faction, captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.

The Hamas and Hezbollah militants have both demanded that Israel free Palestinians from prison for information about the Israeli captives — a demand that Israel has rejected.

Since the offensive began in Gaza, 86 Palestinians have been killed, many of them gunmen. The civilian victims included a 10-year-old Palestinian child who died in a hospital on Friday, four days after being wounded in Beit Lahiya, a village in northern Gaza, officials said.

An Israeli soldier also was accidentally killed during the offensive by friendly fire.

During the Gaza offensive, Israeli ground forces have taken positions in northern, central and southern parts of the territory at various times.

Palestinians said the truck destroyed Friday took a wrong turn and approached Israeli forces in central Gaza. A tank fired a shell, hitting the vehicle. The driver escaped, but a passenger was wounded and later died. The Israeli military said the truck drove within 30 meters (yards) of an Israeli position and ignored orders to stop. Then a tank fired a shell at the truck, hitting it.

Early Friday, witnesses reported Israeli tanks moving in southern Gaza. The military said they were rotating forces in and out of the territory.

Also, Israeli aircraft hit several locations before daybreak, damaging a main road in central Gaza and hitting offices and training camps of militants and Hamas lawmakers in northern Gaza. No one was hurt.

Israeli tanks and bulldozers withdrew from central Gaza, where they had blocked travel between northern and southern Gaza and clashed with militants for three days, the Israeli military said.

Hamas militants fired three homemade rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Friday, causing no casualties or damage, the Israeli army said. On July 4, militants shot a rocket further into southern Israel than ever before, hitting the coastal city of Ashkelon and prompting Israel to call it a "major escalation" in the fighting. A main goal of the offensive was to stop frequent missile fire by Hamas militants into south Israel.

Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri of Hamas said Israel's offensive would not achieve its goals. "The Zionists are mistaken if they think that solving the case of their captured soldier can come through escalation. This case is not gong to be solved for free."

Egypt and Turkey have tried without success to mediate an end to the crisis.

On Thursday, the United States vetoed an Arab-backed U.N. Security Council resolution that would have demanded that Israel halt its offensive in the Gaza Strip and urged Palestinian militants to free Shalit and stop firing rockets at Israel.

The United States was alone in voting against the resolution, sponsored by Qatar on behalf of other Arab nations. Ten of the 15 Security Council nations voted in favor, while Britain, Denmark, Peru and Slovakia abstained.