JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret on Tuesday over the killing of a Palestinian woman and four of her children in an Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip and said an army investigation was under way. “The state of Israel and the government of Israel are deeply sorry when any civilian or non-combatant is hurt, particularly with regard to the mother and four of her children, who were killed,” Olmert told his cabinet at its weekly meeting. “We still don’t know the exact circumstances. They will be investigated by the army and it will publish the exact findings of this incident,” he said.
Residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun said Israeli fire on Monday hit a family home, killing six people, including the woman and the children.
The Israeli military disputed the account, describing the deaths as tragic and saying they occurred when an aircraft fired at two militants carrying bags filled with munitions that exploded and destroyed the home.
Residents said no gunmen were killed in the explosion during what the Israeli military said was an operation against militants who fire rockets across the border into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Olmert said Hamas militants were operating in heavily populated areas in the territory and turning Palestinian civilians “into an inseparable part of its war”, exposing them to danger.