GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli aircraft targeted the Palestinian Economy Ministry and the house of a Hamas militant in Gaza on Saturday, part of an offensive to free a captured soldier and prevent the functioning of the Hamas-led government.
Doctors said one person, later identified as a Hamas militant, was killed in the strike on the house and eight people were wounded, included a baby and a child.
Israel said the house was targeted because it was being used as a place to manufacture and store weapons, including rockets, a fact confirmed by a Palestinian security source.
“The explosion was very large from all the explosives inside,” an army spokeswoman said. “We knew militants from Hamas were staying inside and were working to make a rocket.”
Palestinian medics said it appeared some of the casaulties involved people who were outside the house at the time.
The strike came hours after the Economy Ministry was hit.
Undeterred by its widening offensive inside Lebanon, Israeli aircraft also bombed a bridge in central Gaza, witnesses said.
Palestinian officials said there were no casualties in the bridge or ministry attacks, which were confirmed by the Israeli army.
Gunmen from the militant Hamas movement were among factions that seized Corporal Gilad Shalit on June 25. Hamas, which won control of the Palestinian government after winning elections in January, is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Israel has killed about 80 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, in a Gaza offensive it began almost three weeks ago to press Hamas to free Shalit and stop rocket and other attacks by militants. Troops now occupy a part of southern Gaza.
Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday, near the border with the Jewish state, Palestinian medics said. An army spokeswoman said troops fired at a man who threw grenades at them.
Palestinian medics said they picked up a body that appeared to have been hit several times by a high-calibre weapon.
Israeli air strikes have already destroyed several Gaza offices of the Palestinian government, including that of the prime minister, the foreign minister and the interior minister.
The Jewish state is also engaged in a major offensive against Lebanon after the Hizbollah guerrilla group captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a raid on Wednesday.
Israel’s military chief said on Friday all three captured soldiers were alive.
“As far as our information indicates, the three soldiers are alive and in reasonable health,” Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz told reporters.
Israel has rebuffed growing international criticism of its military operations in Gaza and now Lebanon. Its chief ally, the United States, has said Israel has a right to defend itself.
Hamas gunmen also blew a six-metre (20-foot) hole in the Gaza-Egypt border wall on Friday, allowing nearly 1,000 Palestinians stranded by the closed border to cross home.
Many had been trapped on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing since the crisis erupted. Six stranded Palestinians, including an infant, had died waiting on the closed border.
Palestinians technically control the crossing but its operations can be blocked by the Israelis.