Israeli military says complete withdrawal from Gaza “out of the question”

Israel continued to withdraw some of its troops from the Gaza Strip Tuesday, in moves timed to coincide with the inauguration of US President-elect Barack Obama.

Announcing an end to Operation Cast Lead early Sunday morning, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had said his government intended to remove its forces “at the greatest possible speed.” The Israeli army has confirmed, however, that a “complete withdrawal is out of the question” at this time.

A senior defence official stated Tuesday, “We are reducing the number of troops in the Gaza Strip, but the troops outside that territory remain on the alert so they can react rapidly if necessary.” Later unconfirmed reports said the Israeli navy had fired into Gaza in what was described as a “deterrent measure” and that a Palestinian was shot and wounded by Israeli gunfire near the Kissufim border crossing. No further details were available at the time of this writing.