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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Major Israeli Incursion Under Way in Gaza

Aired February 18, 2003 - 17:24   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news we're following from the Middle East, where a significant number of Israeli tanks and helicopters are moving in and firing on positions near Gaza.
CNN's Kelly Wallace is joining us now, live from Jerusalem. Kelly, tell us what's going on.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this appears to be a major Israeli incursion in Gaza. And it appears to be a response to the killing of four Israeli soldiers on Saturday morning. That is when an Israeli tank ran over an explosive device in Gaza, a device the radical group Hamas claims it planted.

Palestinian security sources are telling us as many as 40 Israeli tanks have moved into an area east of Gaza. We are also told that Apache helicopters have fired some rockets, and possibly missiles, at least four, and that at least five Palestinians have been injured.

Now, Hamas sources are also telling CNN that one Hamas activist has blown himself up in the area of an Israeli tank.

Now the Israeli Defense Forces is not commenting on that report, simply saying it is checking into it. But overall, military sources are saying this is a -- quote -- "targeted mission," and a mission that is going after, in the words of these military sources, "the terror infrastructure."

Wolf, since that Saturday morning incident involving those four Israeli soldiers, the Israeli military has moved after the radical group Hamas. Eight Hamas members have been killed so far including one earlier today. But again, a major military operation under way as we speak -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll be checking back with you, Kelly, to see if this is a limited operation. The Israelis only stay for a short time, or whether they're going to stay much longer. We'll see what happens.

Kelly Wallace, on the scene for us in Jerusalem, tonight. Thanks very much, Kelly, for that report.

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