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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hamas Claims Victory as Israel Exits

GAZA STRIP -- Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Monday after a U.S. appeal to rescue peace talks and end days of fighting that have killed more than 100 Palestinians.

The Hamas Islamists who control the coastal enclave declared victory and vowed to continue firing rockets into Israel, launching one into the main southern city of Ashkelon shortly after the troops withdrew, wounding one person.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted by an official as telling a parliamentary panel: "We are in the midst of a combat action. What happened in recent days was not a one-time event."

And a senior Israeli official said there would be a "two-day interval" for a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Israel had been under pressure from its ally the United States to halt the violence after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended U.S.-backed peace talks in protest at the bloodshed.

In Gaza City, several thousand Hamas supporters took to the streets in celebration of the withdrawal and took festive photographs with gunmen as the chant "The invaders fled and the army of Jews was defeated" rang out from loudspeakers.

Rice is to hold talks on moving Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations forward on Tuesday and Wednesday in Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah. Washington hopes a Palestinian statehood deal can be reached this year.

Israel's security cabinet plans to meet on Wednesday to consider the government's next move.

"This very limited [Gaza] operation was intended to show Hamas what could happen, what you may call a 'prequel,'" the senior Israeli official said. "If they decide they've seen enough and stop the rockets, if they get the message, then we may get into a period of quiet. If they continue to fire the rockets, then there will be more operations like this one or worse."

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 116 Palestinians had been killed in the Gaza offensive. Militant groups said about half of them were civilians.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad put the death toll at 110, with 250 people wounded, and said the situation was "unprecedented since the 1967 war of Israeli occupation."

Many of the civilian casualties came when Israeli missiles fired by helicopters, jets and unmanned drones hit buildings and homes that the army said were being used by militants.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the offensive. On Wednesday, an Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket, the first such death since May.

Overnight, Israel carried out several airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, killing three militants, medical workers and Hamas said. The army said it had targeted workshops making rockets.

The Gaza violence touched off anti-Israeli protests in the West Bank, where a Jewish settler shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian on Monday in Ramallah after coming under attack by a crowd of rock-throwers, an Israeli police spokesman said.

After Israeli troops left Gaza, municipal workers began repairing roads and power lines damaged in the fighting. Some gray concrete houses were pockmarked by bullets. In Ashkelon, residents of a penthouse apartment penetrated by a Katyusha rocket picked through the debris.