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2 children are killed in attack in Gaza

Israelis target rocket launchers

GAZA CITY -- Israeli forces fighting Palestinian militants in Gaza killed five people yesterday, two of them children, a Palestinian health official said.

Israeli troops killed a sixth Palestinian in the West Bank and the army said he was an armed militant.

The children killed in Gaza, aged 10 and 12, were members of the same extended family, said Dr. Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry. A third child, 10, was seriously wounded and six other people were slightly hurt, all of them civilians, Hassanin said.

The army said troops targeted two figures spotted near a rocket launcher in an area of northern Gaza where a rocket had been fired into Israel.

The army said Palestinian rocket teams have been known to send young children to retrieve rocket launchers after firing.

"In light of the reports, it seems likely that this was the case here," the army said in a statement.

Earlier yesterday, Israeli troops killed three armed members of the militant group Islamic Jihad in southern Gaza. The army said ground forces fired at gunmen who approached the Israel-Gaza border fence.

Islamic Jihad said three militants on a mission against Israel were killed.

Israel frequently carries out ground and air attacks in an effort to stop near-daily rocket fire. Palestinians fired three rockets into Israel yesterday including one that hit an empty kindergarten in the town of Sderot, the army said.

On Monday, an Israeli air strike in Gaza killed six Hamas militants.

Israel said the men were part of a squad that fired rockets into southern Israel.

While Israel presses on with the fight against Gaza militants, its military has been reducing operations in the West Bank in an attempt to bolster moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas formed a government based in the West Bank after Hamas militants seized power in Gaza two months ago.

But before dawn yesterday, Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Nablus shot and killed an armed militant from an offshoot of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the army and Palestinian doctors said.