GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Despite American criticism, Israel on Wednesday briefly re-entered the Gaza Strip and leveled a Palestinian police station on territory granted to Yasser Arafat's government in peace agreements. The raid in southern Gaza came 10 hours after Israel withdrew troops from a square-mile area it had seized Tuesday morning at the opposite end of the strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came under criticism that he had bowed to pressure from the United States, which had denounced the land takeover.
Israel said its actions were a response to Palestinian mortar and shooting attacks against Israeli civilians. The attacks and Tuesday's land seizure outraged Palestinians. Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the Palestinians would respond with "popular resistance" to Israel's incursions.
Palestinian fire continued despite the Israeli retaliation.
Soon after Israeli troops pulled out of the northern pocket, six mortars hit near the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim in Gaza. After nightfall Wednesday, five mortar shells landed at Nir Am, an Israeli village just outside the Gaza border fence, as well as near the Gaza settlement Kfar Darom, the military said. No injuries were reported. Israeli tanks fired shells at a police post in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, Palestinians said.
Fierce exchanges of fire took place near Jerusalem, between the Palestinian town of Beit Jalla and Israeli positions near the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo in disputed east Jerusalem.
Sharon's government insisted it had planned to pull out of the northern Gaza pocket even before Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the takeover. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke with Powell by phone Wednesday and said Powell's sharp words had resulted from a "problem with communication."