A 19-hour standoff between Israel Defense Forces troops and dozens of Palestinian Muslim gunmen holed up inside a mosque in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun ended Friday after all the gunmen fled. The militants escaped under cover of a protest by Palestinian Muslim women outside, the IDF said. A Hamas radio station broadcast a call to the women to come to the mosque to serve as human shields for the gunmen holed up there.
Military sources say there were large amounts of arms inside the mosque, and that among the gunmen were several senior wanted Muslim Palestinians who headed the rocket infrastructure in northern Gaza. Beit Hanoun is considered a central axis of the Kassam rocket infrastructure in Gaza. The army said more than one-third of the 800 rockets fired at Israel in recent months were launched from Beit Hanoun.