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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK
Israeli fire kills five in Gaza
Man collects possessions in a destroyed home in Rafah, Gaza
Man goes through the rubble of a destroyed home in Rafah
Five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip.

In the north, three men were killed, and several injured, in an Israeli air strike near the Jabaliya refugee camp, Palestinian medics said.

The Israeli military denies this, saying three militants handling rocket launchers were killed by tank fire.

To the south, near Rafah, a 35-year-old mother was killed and three of her children wounded by a tank shell. A male relative was also killed.

Reports say that the Rafah deaths may have occurred during a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen.

Palestinian security officials say that the Palestinian militants blew up a house that Israeli troops had occupied. Seven Palestinians were arrested during the operation, the officials say.

Long Campaign

Israeli forces have carried out many incursions and air strikes on Gaza since the capture in late June of Israeli Cpl Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

Over this period, Gaza has been largely sealed off. A senior UN official recently warned that living conditions for Palestinians in Gaza had reached breaking point.

We are waiting for and expecting the siege on the Palestinian people to be totally lifted with the formation of the national unity government
Musheer al-Masry
Hamas spokesman

Israel says the campaign in Gaza aims to secure the release of its soldier and stop militants from firing rockets into Israel.

Palestinian militants say that their rocket attacks are a response to Israeli air strikes, raids, arrests and killings, both in Gaza and the West Bank.

Since the end of June, more than 230 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the Israeli campaign.

Hamas welcome

The militant Palestinian group Hamas, which currently runs the Palestinian Authority, has given a partial welcome to a statement by the quartet of Middle East mediators backing efforts to form a Palestinian unity government.

On Wednesday, at the UN in New York, the US and the three other Quartet members - the EU, Russia and the UN - said they would boost indirect aid through a channel bypassing the Hamas-led government.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to replace the Hamas government with one including his Fatah faction.

Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel, renounce violence or endorse past Palestinian-Israeli agreements had led to the US and EU cutting aid.

"The statement from the Quartet is a step forward, but it's not enough," said Musheer al-Masry, a Hamas spokesman.

"We are waiting for and expecting the siege on the Palestinian people to be totally lifted with the formation of the national unity government."

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