Israeli army kills 8 Palestinians in Gaza fighting
Israeli forces killed four Palestinian militants and four civilians, including an 11-year-old boy, in assaults on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Friday
Israeli forces killed four Palestinian resistance fighter and four civilians, including an 11-year-old boy, in assaults on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Friday, the Islamist faction and medical officials said.
The operations near the communities of el Bureij and Khan Younis followed a vow by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to answer a deadly Palestinian assault on a Gaza border terminal on Wednesday with a stepped-up military campaign against Hamas.
Troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships moved into el Bureij, in central Gaza, on what an Israeli military spokeswoman described as a mission "to disrupt the terrorist infrastructure and distance terrorists from the border fence".
Palestinian officials said Israeli ground forces killed four civilians, one of them a boy. A helicopter missile strike killed a Hamas gunman and a fighter from the Army of the Nation, an al Qaeda-inspired Gazan faction, the Palestinian officials said.
The military spokeswoman said Israeli forces attacked several gunmen during clashes. Reuters Television footage from el Bureij showed resistance fighters in the village's orchards.
Hours earlier, Israeli air strikes killed two Hamas gunmen near Khan Younis, in south Gaza, and wounded seven others.
Israel regularly mounts raids on Gaza, where Hamas took over last June after a civil war with forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in what it calls a bid to stop cross-border rocket salvoes.
In parallel, Israel has intensified an economic blockade on Gaza, most of whose 1.5 million Palestinians are aid-dependent.
In what Hamas called a response to the "siege", Palestinian fighters on Wednesday stormed Nahal Oz border terminal, where EU-funded fuel is piped into the territory on the Gaza border. Two Israeli workers and five Palestinians died in that incident.
Israel suspended fuel shipments to Gaza on Thursday and Olmert said that his government, while pursuing U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Abbas, would also step up actions against Hamas so it would "not be able to continue to operate as it does today".
Israel has accused Hamas authorities of not distributing fuel that had already been pumped into tanks on the Gaza side of the border before Wednesday's attack on the depot. Its account was confirmed by Gaza's Fuel Suppliers Association, which has said members are holding back fuel in protest at tight supplies.
Hamas official Mushir al-Masri warned Israel against further tightening the blockade of the territory, saying "all options are open before our people to break the siege".
Hamas fighters blew up a wall on Gaza's border with Egypt in January, allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to stream across the frontier at Rafah to stock up on food and fuel for 10 days before it was re-sealed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Western-backed government holds sway in the occupied West Bank, condemned statements recently made by some Hamas officials in Gaza threatening to breach the borders with Egypt, saying such statements constitute "grave harm to Palestinian taboos".
Reuters Last Mod: 12 Nisan 2008, 17:33