GAZA, (Reuters) – Israeli troops killed at least five Palestinians, including three civilians, during a raid into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Thursday, Palestinian witnesses and hospital officials said.
The Israeli army said it was hunting for militants responsible for firing rockets into southern Israel. One of the rockets landed north of the Israeli city of Ashkelon, 17 km (11 miles) from Israel’s border with Gaza. The army said it was the furthest a rocket from Gaza had travelled.
Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said an Israeli tank fired at a home near the southern town of Khan Younis, killing an Islamic Jihad gunman as he stood outside. The shell also killed his mother, a sister and a brother, who were inside the house at the time.
Another shell injured at least seven school children between the ages of eight and 10, hospital officials said. Medics said an Israeli tank fired the shell into a crowd. The Israeli army said it was checking into the report.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops were searching an area between Khan Younis and the nearby Gaza border for Palestinians involved in rocket fire and had come under attack by local gunmen.
A tank fired at a building after gunmen were spotted taking shelter in it, the spokeswoman said.
The army said its forces killed two gunmen in separate incidents.
Hamas said one of its gunmen was killed, but there was no immediate confirmation of another death.
At least 22 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, hospital officials said.
The Islamist Hamas group, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after routing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah forces there, said several of its fighters were among the casualties.
In a statement, Hamas said Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, by coordinating with Israel, bore responsibility for the continued raids in the Gaza Strip as well as the occupied West Bank, where Fatah still holds sway.
Israel often carries out air strikes and raids in Gaza to try to prevent militants firing rockets at southern parts of the Jewish state.