Israel withdrew most of its ground troops from the Gaza Strip today in an apparent winding down of the nearly month-long operation against Hamas that has left more than 1,800 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis dead. Even as Israel said it was close to completing its mission, heavy fighting raged in parts of Gaza, with at least 10 people killed in what UN and Palestinian officials said was an Israeli airstrike near a UN shelter. The US lashed out at Israel, saying it was "appalled" by the "disgraceful" attack. And with Hamas officials vowing to continue their fight, it remained uncertain whether Israel could unilaterally end the war. (CNN reports that Israel has announced a 7-hour ceasefire, but Hamas has not agreed to it.)
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, confirmed the bulk of ground troops had been pulled out of Gaza after the military concluded it had destroyed most of the tunnel network. He said Israel had detected some 30 tunnels that were dug along the border for what he called a "synchronized attack" on Israel. "We've caused substantial damage to this network to an extent where we've basically taken this huge threat and made it minimal," he said. The army had thousands of troops in Gaza at the height of the operation. Click for more.