Three Hamas fighters were killed overnight on Sunday night during two Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip ahead of a planned mass rally on Monday against Israel's blockade of the territory.
Three members of the armed wing of Hamas were killed overnight Sunday in two Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, the group said.
Two members of the Al-Qassam Martyrs' Brigades were killed in the first raid to the east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, while the third was killed in a raid in Gaza City, it said.
The Israeli army confirmed the attacks.
"The two attacks targeted armed men, and in both cases they were hit," said an army spokesman.
The latest deaths bring to 6,157 the number of people killed since the eruption of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinians, according to an AFP tally.
Gazans set to form "human chain" protest over Israeli blockade
Gazans were set to form on Monday a human chain along the length of the territory to protest the crushing Israeli blockade, with Israeli forces on alert for trouble or a possible rush on the border.
The Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS), a politically independent group headed by Palestinian parliamentarian Jamal al-Khudari, has called for a mass demonstration on Monday against the months-long siege on the impoverished territory.
The group has announced it will attempt to construct a human chain from the sealed Rafah crossing on the southern Gaza border with Egypt to the Beit Hanun crossing in northern Gaza along the territory's main highway.
The Islamist movement Hamas, which took over the Gaza Strip last June following battles with forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, has said it backs the demonstration but did not organise it.
But Israel warned Hamas on Sunday it would defend its territory if there were any disturbances during the rally.
"Israel will not intervene in demonstrations inside the Gaza Strip but it will ensure the defence of its territory and prevent any violation of its sovereign borders," said a joint statement from Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.
Media reports said the Israeli army is preparing for a possible rush on the border fence around the Gaza Strip aimed at breaking the economic blockade.
"Israel will work to avoid a deterioration of the situation but declares unequivocally that Hamas must assume full responsibility if that happens," the statement said.
According to Israeli army radio, Hamas may stage a mass march on the border to protest at Israel's closure of Gaza, where most of the 1.5 million population depend on aid.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper has reported that Israeli forces have increased their presence along the border, adding that there were fears of casualties if troops try to halt such a march.
Palestinian militants blasted several holes in the border barrier between Gaza and Egypt on January 23, sending a tide of hundreds of thousands of people streaming into the Sinai on a mission to replenish depleted stocks.
Hamas gunmen and Egyptian troops resealed the border on February 3.
Israel has sealed the territory off from all but vital humanitarian supplies since Hamas violently seized power there in June, in a bid to halt rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.
But Palestinians and several international agencies have said the sanctions amount to collective punishment of its civilian population.
Date created : 2008-02-25