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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Palestinians killed in Gaza Strip
Man walks through rubble of Gaza home
Gaza has been under intensive Israeli shelling since late June
Three Palestinians have been killed by Israeli army fire in the Gaza Strip.

The shelling came in response to the launch of missiles across Gaza's border, which hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon, injuring one person.

The Israeli army says it immediately identified the launch site and targeted the militants.

Palestinians say the militants escaped, and that the dead were civilians caught in shelling that went on for more than half an hour.

Israel has been trying to stop rocket fire from Gaza and free one of its soldiers, captured in a raid by Palestinian militants into Israel on 28 June.

Thousands of rockets have been fired into Gaza, killing nearly 200 Palestinians, many of them civilians. Israel has also launched ground offensives into Gaza.

The Palestinian side has proposed a ceasefire and said the soldier would be freed if Israel released some of the thousands of Palestinians that it holds in its jails, a condition Israel has rejected.

The United Nations has warned of a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

'Relatives killed'

Reports say one of the Palestinians killed in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza, was 17-years-old.

The Israeli military said it fired at three Palestinian militants in the area after they launched two Qassam rockets at Ashkelon.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said it fired the rockets.

Palestinians report that a group of fighters set up a rocket launcher near an agricultural college in Beit Hanoun, but local residents told them to leave.

As the militants were leaving, an Israeli tank shell hit the area, wounding the teenager. Two relatives, aged 55 and 65, went to his aid and were killed in subsequent Israeli fire, Palestinians report.

Three other people were wounded, they said.

Israeli soldiers' relief as ceasefire begins

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