GAZA,(Reuters) – Israeli forces killed five Palestinians, including three teenagers, in raids across the Gaza Strip on Thursday, Palestinian medics said.
An Israeli shell killed three Palestinians near a rocket launcher in northern Gaza shortly after two make-shift rockets were fired into Israel, damaging a water pipe and a building.
Palestinian residents and witnesses said the three were teenage shepherds.
An Israeli military spokesman said the three had been tampering with a rocket launcher when they were fired upon.
Earlier, a woman, aged 35, died after soldiers stormed a house belonging to a member of the Hamas militant group near the southern town of Rafah. The Israeli army had no comment.
Israeli soldiers also killed a militant from al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is part of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah group, during an exchange of fire in the area. A military spokesman confirmed that troops had fired at a gunman.
Israel blew up a building where troops clashed with grenade-throwing militants.
Rafah is an area where Israel believes a soldier abducted by Gazan gunmen in a June 25 border raid, Corporal Gilad Shalit, might be held.
Palestinian witnesses said the army blew up a two-storey home of two Hamas militants, who are brothers. The building was destroyed and the whereabouts of the militants were unknown.
It was unclear whether their home was the same building the army spokesman said troops had blown up. Israel has often carried out planned demolitions of homes of militants.
The raids followed an increase in rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel, including two fired at the town of Sderot early on Thursday, which caused no casualties.
The troops swept into Rafah, a town along the Egyptian border, under darkness in lightly armoured jeeps, and an Israeli transport helicopter landed at the site after clashes erupted, possibly to evacuate casualties, witnesses said.
Israeli forces have mounted several major operations in Gaza since Shalit’s capture, killing more than 215 Palestinians, including civilians.
Israel quit Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation in what it called a bid to defuse violence.