GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Israeli tanks and troops pulled back to the Israel-Gaza border yesterday after an unusually deadly incursion that killed 30 Palestinians over three days. The army said the withdrawal was temporary and did not mean its monthlong offensive in the Gaza Strip was over.
Palestinians streamed out of their homes, inspecting their battered houses and vehicles while rescue workers searched for bodies underneath rubble. Militants picked up mines and explosives they had planted to hit Israeli tanks.
The world's attention stayed fixed further north, in Lebanon, where Israel is battling Hezbollah guerrillas.
Palestinian officials said they had not received a response to their demand that Israel guarantees that it will free women, children, and long-serving Palestinian prisoners before an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza militants is released.
Corporal Gilad Shalit, 19, was captured by Hamas-linked militants in a cross-border raid on June 25 that prompted the latest Israeli incursion into Gaza. Two Israeli soldiers were killed.
Dr. Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas official, said Israel's refusal to guarantee that it would release any Palestinian prisoners if Shalit were freed created a stalemate.
Shalit is believed to remain in the custody of Palestinian militant groups.
Bardawil denied reports that Hamas and Hezbollah were cooperating in negotiations for the release of prisoners. He pointed out, however, that he would support such an effort ``if it is in the interests of both Lebanese and Palestinians."
According to an Associated Press count, Israeli troops have killed 159 Palestinians since they started attacking the Gaza Strip to try to recover Shalit and stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into Israel.
Most of the dead were militants, but a considerable number were civilians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a trip to Algeria that the situation in the Palestinian areas and Lebanon was only likely to get worse following world leaders' failure to agree on an immediate cease-fire at a summit Wednesday in Rome.
``The situation will worsen and the consequences will be very heavy, not only for the region but probably for the entire world," he told Algeria's official APS news agency.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the southern Israeli town of Zikim that hit two children with shrapnel.
Israeli aircraft hit a metal workshop in the city of Khan Younis that the military said was a weapons storehouse. The strike wounded nine people, including two children, hospital officials said.