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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 May, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Israeli children killed in Gaza
Israeli soldiers
The gunmen are said to have been shot dead by Israeli security forces
A mother and four Israeli children have been killed after two Palestinian gunmen attacked a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Army said.

The attack near the Gush Katif bloc came as Israel's ruling Likud Party voted on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza.

Army Radio said the militants had opened fire on a vehicle, and detonated a bomb at an army post.

Both gunmen are also said to have been killed following the attack.

Mr Sharon told Israeli radio the "terrible assassination" was intended to "delay and disrupt" his disengagement plan.

Attack on 'link road'

A Palestinian militant alliance - between Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees - claimed responsibility for the attack, Reuters news agency reported.

The shootings are said to have taken place on a stretch - known as the Kissufim road - that links the settlements in the southern Gaza Strip with Israel proper.

The road has been the scene of many attacks of this kind since the current Palestinian uprising began.

An Israeli Army spokesman told AFP news agency: "A cell of probably two terrorists positioned themselves near the kissufim road that leads to the Gush Katif bloc."

An explosive device was detonated against an army post just after the attack, "probably to postpone the arrival of soldiers at the scene", he said.

Sharon plea

The attack took place near one of the settlements which would be affected by Ariel Sharon's plan for Israeli troops and settlers to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

The prime minister made a last-minute appeal to Likud Party members to support it, saying withdrawal would enable Israel to make progress, including increasing its security, rather than moving backwards.

Opinion polls suggest the proposals could be narrowly defeated, but Mr Sharon has indicated he will press ahead whatever the outcome.

The proposal calls for Israeli troops and 7,500 Jewish settlers to leave the Gaza Strip.

Opposition to the plan is said to be strong among the 193,000 Likud members, and a No vote could trigger a crisis.

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"As Israel voted, the militants struck"


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