Israeli forces push into Gaza airport

GAZA CITY, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – Israeli forces pushed into the disbanded international airport in Gaza Wednesday and opened fire during an incursion aimed at securing the release of a soldier, security officials said.

"Israeli armored vehicles drove up to the airport two hours ago and fired on the building," a Palestinian security official told AFP.

The Israeli army, backed up by Apache helicopters hovering overhead, was preventing anyone from coming within one kilometer (half a mile) of the facility, an AFP correspondent said.

The airport is located about one kilometer from the Israeli border.

Shortly after the Palestinian uprising broke out in 2000, the Israeli army destroyed the newly built airport’s radar station in 2001 and bulldozed its runways. Since then the airport has failed to operate.

Israel sent ground forces into Gaza before dawn and launched air raids that knocked out bridges and a power station in a bid to free a teenage soldier kidnapped by Palestinian fighters on Sunday.

An Israeli military source told AFP tanks and troops had for the moment stopped in and around the area of the abandoned Dahaniyeh airport in southern Gaza, where it is believed the soldier, Gilad Shalit, was being held.