"The Beit Hanoun sweep is different from previous Israeli incursions into Gaza, a senior Israeli military official said. Rather than staying on the outskirts of populated areas, troops are going house to house in Beit Hanoun, sometimes breaking through inner walls to limit exposure to gunmen.
"In another new tactic, troops have rounded up hundreds of men for questioning, releasing most but detaining dozens, the army official said.
"In the most dramatic episode of the Beit Hanoun incursion, dozens of Palestinian gunmen, many from Hamas, took cover in the town's Al Nasser Mosque on Thursday and were quickly surrounded by Israeli forces. The two sides exchanged fire through the night. An army bulldozer knocked down an outer wall of the mosque, causing the ceiling to collapse.
"On Friday morning, Al Aqsa Radio, the local Hamas station, broadcast appeals to women to come to the rescue of the trapped gunmen. The women marched toward the mosque, coming under Israeli fire at times, and approached armored personnel carriers and bulldozers near the mosque.
"Volleys of shots were fired at them, sending the group rushing toward a wall for cover.
"Two women, both age 40, were shot and killed, and at least 10 others were wounded, hospital officials said.
"One of the wounded was Tahrir Shahin, 36, a housewife. She said that after hearing the radio appeal, she left her seven children sleeping at home and set out for the mosque with her sister. En route, a bullet hit Shahin's left leg; it had to be amputated above the knee.
"Still, she said, she did not regret her choice. "I was so upset about what was happening, so I answered their call," she said from her hospital bed.