Israeli troops entered northern Gaza on Wednesday, briefly sealing the Erez border crossing between the Palestinian territory andIsrael, Hamas officials said.

"Occupation forces moved into the northern Gaza Strip and began bulldozing work and closed the Erez crossing to travellers," the interior ministry of the Islamist movement Hamas which rules Gazasaid in a statement.

Witnesses told AFP that two Israeli bulldozers accompanied by three tanks had moved into the area and were levelling land near the border.

Palestinian officials at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip said it was closed for several hours on Wednesday morning, before reopening at around 10:30 am (0830 GMT).

The Israeli military confirmed the incursion, saying only "the army entered the area to stop terrorist activities."

Israeli troops regularly carry out brief incursions into the Gaza Strip, despite formally withdrawing from the territory in 2005.

They usually enter the Palestinian territory to raze homes or trees near the border that they claim are used by militants trying to infiltrate Israel, fire rockets or plant explosives along the border area.