Five Hamas militants were killed on Saturday after Israeli forces launched three raids on Gaza, medics said, one day after an Israeli man was killed by a mortar attack claimed by the military wing of Hamas.
Israeli air raids on Gaza killed five Hamas militants on Saturday as the Jewish state warned the United Nations it will defend itself against Palestinian rocket attacks from the isolated territory.
Egypt meanwhile opened its border with the besieged coastal strip to allow dozens of sick and wounded Gazans to enter for medical treatment.
The first overnight raid, which killed two Hamas militants near Rafah at the southern end of the strip, was aimed at a police station used by Hamas, the head of Gaza emergency services, Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, said.
The second attack targeted another Hamas police base in the city of Khan Yunis in the south of the territory and killed three members of the Hamas-run paramilitary group that polices the territory, he said.
The third strike was east of Khan Yunis and wounded two Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad, medics said.
An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the raids, saying "there were two aerial attacks against Hamas posts and one against gunmen approaching the (border) fence in the south."
Palestinian militants meanwhile fired 21 rockets at Israel, with one hitting a house in the hard-hit town of Sderot without causing any casualties.
Israeli troops and Palestinian militants have clashed on a near-daily basis since Hamas seized power in June last year as Israel's political and military leaders have mulled a larger offensive in the impoverished territory.
In a letter sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday, Israel warned that it "will not remain idle while our citizens are constantly targeted by terrorist attacks. Israel will know how to defend itself."
A 48-year-old Israeli man was killed on Friday by a mortar round fired from the Gaza Strip in an attack claimed by the military wing of Hamas.
Since Israel and the Palestinians relaunched formal peace talks in November at least 460 people have been killed, most of them Gaza militants, according to an AFP count.
On Saturday, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing for the first time in months to allow hundreds of Gazans to leave for medical treatment.
"We will transport 550 patients in 40 Palestinian ambulances and five trucks," Hassanein said, adding that the patients include 200 people wounded in Israeli military operations and 70 children under the age of 16.
Scores of weary Gazans gathered outside the terminal as black-clad Hamas gunmen paced through the crowds and kept onlookers away from the crossing.
"We hope Rafah will stay open like before. The health situation in Gaza is very serious. There is no medicine, nothing," said Mufid Habush, as he waited at the crossing with his five-year-old daughter.
The little girl, whose leg was amputated because of a birth defect, was due to have an operation in Egypt.
Hamas said the crossing would be open for three days to allow the sick to enter for treatment and those trapped on one side or the other to cross back to their place of residence.
"We hope this will be the first step towards permanently opening the crossing and breaking the siege," senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan told AFP.
Since Hamas seized power Israel has sealed the territory of 1.5 million people off to all very limited humanitarian aid in a bid to put pressure on Hamas to halt rocket attacks.
Gaza's sole power plant shut down again on Monday for lack of fuel, according to a senior Palestinian official, cutting off electricity to 30 percent of the territory's residents.
An Israeli army spokesman said a new shipment of industrial-grade fuel for the plant was planned for Sunday, but that the amount supplied would depend on whether militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal again.
Palestinian militants attacked the terminal, through which nearly all of Gaza's fuel is supplied, on April 9, killing two Israeli civilian employees.
The terminal has only been opened sporadically since then, as Palestinian militants have carried out several attacks against the territory's crossings.
Israel has been mulling a wider offensive in Gaza for months, but was expected to wait until after its 60th anniversary celebrations, most of which took place on Thursday, and a visit by US President George W. Bush next week.
Date created : 2008-05-10