6 killed during clashes in Gaza

By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Reuters / July 17, 2006

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GAZA CITY -- Israeli forces killed five Palestinian militants and a civilian in a series of strikes in Gaza yesterday, pressing an offensive designed to stop armed groups from firing rockets into Israel.

An unmanned Israeli drone fired a missile at a group of gunmen as they clashed with Israeli troops in Beit Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip, killing two militants and wounding two, witnesses and medics said.

An Israeli Army spokesman confirmed the attack and said that it had been ordered after Israeli troops saw militants trying to plant a bomb in the area.

Earlier, an Israeli airstrike killed three gunmen in Beit Lahiya, a district not far from Beit Hanoun. The army said that it had opened fire on a group of men seen carrying an antitank grenade launcher. Witnesses said about 10 Palestinians were wounded in the strike.

Early today, an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City flattened the eight-story Palestinian Foreign Ministry building, which had been badly damaged in a previous strike. At least nine Palestinians were wounded in the blast, which witnesses said tore into nearby homes, shops and offices. No deaths were reported.

The attacks yesterday were carried out shortly after Israeli tanks, backed by helicopters, moved into farmland near Beit Hanoun, from which militants often fire homemade rockets into Israel. Israeli forces had pulled out of the area a week ago.

Medics said an Israeli operation killed a Palestinian woman in southern Gaza, where Israeli troops have been based since late last month.

Witnesses said an Israeli tank shell landed near the woman's house, sending shrapnel flying inside and killing her. The army said no tank or artillery shells were fired in the area.