Six Palestinians, including four children and their mother, were killed in Israeli operations in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, residents and medics say. These casualties come as Palestinian prepare for peace talks in Egypt.
Four children, aged one to five, their mother and a militant were killed in Israeli operations in Gaza on Monday as Palestinian factions headed to Egypt for talks on a possible truce.
The four siblings -- aged one, three, four and five -- were killed when a tank shell hit their home in the town of Beit Hanun, and their mother died later of her wounds, doctors at the Kamal Radwan hospital said.
"I left the house just moments before to look for one of my children. I heard the sound of the explosion," said 70-year-old father Ahmed Abu Maateq.
"They had been eating breakfast and my wife had been holding our youngest child in her hands," he said as he looked down at the blood, flesh and spilled milk splashed across the wreckage.
His wife and six children were in the courtyard in their pyjamas when the missile slammed into the front door of the house, he said. The remaining two children were hospitalised.
"I hope to God that the same thing that happened to me happens to whoever fired that missile at my house, that what happened to my wife and children happens to his family," Abu Maateq said, his eyes red with pain and anger.
Islamic Jihad fighters had clashed with Israeli troops near the house which is close to Gaza's border with Israel, Palestinian security officials said, and the group said one of its fighters was killed in the same area.
The army said one Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in the fighting.
Three Hamas fighters and another Palestinian were wounded in an air strike in northern Gaza later in the day.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak vowed the military would continue to target Hamas across the Gaza Strip, and blamed the Islamists for civilian deaths.
"By operating within populated civilian areas and by distributing and storing explosives there, Hamas is responsible for some of the civilian casualties," Barak's office quoted him as saying.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said "we are currently investigating this morning's tragic incident," adding that "we make every possible effort to prevent innocent civilians from getting caught in crossfire."
Hamas meanwhile lashed out at Israel, saying the strike undermined talks in Egypt aimed at securing a ceasefire in Gaza.
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said the "massacre" was part of Israel's "constant attempts to destroy any regional or international effort to lift the siege and end the violence."
Palestinian militants fired at least 13 rockets at southern Israel, damaging a house in the hard-hit town of Sderot near the border, the army said. No one was wounded in the attack.
At least 443 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed since the restart of formal peace talks under US auspices at an international conference in November, according to an AFP tally.
The latest clashes came as delegations from several Palestinian factions headed to Cairo to discuss a possible ceasefire with Israel after the Islamist Hamas movement which rules the Gaza Strip held similar talks in Egypt.
Egypt has been serving as a go-between in truce negotiations as Israel refuses any direct contacts with organisations it considers terror groups.
Members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and three smaller leftist groups crossed into Egypt via the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on Monday.
Islamic Jihad, which has carried out numerous rocket attacks on southern Israel, planned to send a delegation from Damascus to Cairo on Monday night.
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman will host the factions on Tuesday and Wednesday in a bid to draft a common position on the truce proposal.
Meanwhile the UN Relief and Works Agency said it will resume distributing food aid to some 650,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza on Tuesday after a four-day interruption caused by fuel shortages.
On Thursday, a demonstration Israel claims was stage-managed by Hamas prevented tankers from reaching the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on the Gaza-Israeli border, which has only been opened sporadically since April 9.
In the occupied West Bank, Israel on Monday opened a key checkpoint near Nablus, partly easing heavy travel restrictions around the flashpoint town, an AFP correspondent said.
Date created : 2008-04-28