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Israeli strike destroys shop of suicide bomber’s family

Palestinians free 3 foreigners who had been abducted

GAZA CITY -- An Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a three-story building in a crowded district of Gaza City yesterday, destroying a metal shop owned by the family of a young mother who had blown herself up in a suicide bombing.

Palestinian medics said two people were injured when the missile slammed into the building's middle floor, sending a fireball high into the night sky. The building was vacant.

Also yesterday, Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Nablus freed three foreign church volunteers, including an American, several hours after abducting them, Palestinian security officials said.

Israel said the shop in the building was used to build bombs for the militant organization Hamas. Palestinian officials said it was a factory for car batteries.

Both sides said the shop belonged to the family of Reem Raiyshi, a 22-year-old mother of two who killed herself in a January attack at the Erez Crossing, the checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

That attack killed three Israeli soldiers and a security guard.

Earlier, Israeli troops fired on Palestinians mourning a militant leader in the Gaza Strip, killing a 12-year-old boy, hospital officials said, while Palestinians fired a salvo of missiles at an Israeli town.

The rocket attack took place hours after Israeli forces expanded their preemptive operations in northern Gaza in an attempt to end harassment of the town of Sderot and Israeli settlements.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian gunmen freed three foreign church volunteers, including an American, several hours after abducting them in Nablus late yesterday, Palestinian security officials said.

Five gunmen seized the foreigners around midnight as they were returning to the home where they were staying. The volunteers were citizens of the United States, Britain, and Ireland. Their identities were not made public.

The three were released unhurt after police surrounded the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, where they were taken. Several foreign women accompanying them were allowed to go free earlier.

No reason for the abduction was immediately given. The captives were freed under pressure from Palestinian authorities, the security officials said.

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