RAFAH, Gaza Strip – Israeli helicopters pounded this refugee camp with missiles and machine gun fire Tuesday, killing at least 12 Palestinians, eight of them armed, as troops searched houses in the largest Israeli offensive in Gaza in years.

…Security officials said earlier this week the army also plans to widen an Israeli patrol road between the camp and Egypt, which would entail demolishing rows of nearby houses.

Last week, Israel destroyed about 100 houses near the patrol road, making more than 1,000 Palestinians homeless and drawing worldwide condemnation, including rare criticism from the United States.

Read also The Washington Post’s editorial today that calls Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “reckless,” and Richard Cohen’s column in which he writes, “The settlements have made Israel crazy. … The Palestinian economy is flattened. So, too, is Israeli morale and its moral standing in the world.”