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Gaza - Israel launched missile strikes that knocked out power to thousands of Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday as it pressed an offensive to halt cross-border rocket fire.
The air raids took place just hours after Israel's army fired artillery shells into the Gaza Strip for the first time since the 1967 Middle East war.
Renewed violence has battered hopes that Israel's troop pullout from Gaza, completed on September 12 under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for "disengaging" from conflict with the Palestinians, would improve chances for peace.
With little prospect for progress soon along a US-backed peace "road map", Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said a meeting on Sunday between Sharon and President Mahmoud Abbas had been postponed. He gave no new date.
Sharon, locked in a race with Benjamin Netanyahu for leadership of the right-wing Likud party, has hit back against militants firing rockets into Israel.
He wants to counter hardliners' accusations that he has damaged Israel's security by pulling out of Gaza.
His tough response may have given him a boost in polls showing him taking a commanding lead over Netanyahu.
Before dawn, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at four militant targets in and around Gaza City, destroying the offices of a leading Fatah militant and two other militant groups, Israeli military sources and Palestinian witnesses said.
They said a fifth missile fired later destroyed a bridge in northern Gaza's Beit Hanoun. - Reuters