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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 24 July 2006 16:22 UK

Five killed by shelling in Gaza

Firefighters extinguish a fire as an elderly Palestinian passes next to the crater where an Israeli tank shell exploded in Beit Lahiya
More than 100 people have been killed in Gaza in the past month

Five Palestinians have been killed and dozens injured after Israeli artillery fired on the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, Palestinian medics said.

Three people were killed when a shell hit a crowd outside a block of flats near the Israeli border.

Later, a shell exploded in an area of open ground to the town's west, killing a 14-year-old boy and his grandmother.

The Israeli military said both the strikes targeted militants who had been firing Qassam rockets into Israel.

Twenty such rockets have landed in Israel since Sunday morning, although no Israelis have been hurt in the attacks.

"We have distributed leaflets warning civilians to leave areas from where Qassam rockets are fired," an Israeli spokeswoman told Reuters news agency.

"The terror organisations purposely fire Qassam rockets at Israel from areas that are crowded with civilians."

'Torture'

After the first shelling in Beit Lahiya, one resident said he had been having lunch with his wife and two children when the shells hit his apartment block, shattering windows and cracking walls.

All that we ask the American administration is to take a moral stance toward the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian suffering and to bear its responsibility as a superpower in this world
Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya

"If we had not moved to the hall, we would have been killed," Ahmed Obeid told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Obeid said he was being "tortured" by living in a building in "the direct line of fire" of Israeli artillery.

Earlier, two Gazans were injured in two Israeli air strikes on buildings allegedly being used to store weapons.

Israel said the buildings in northern Gaza belonged to members of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that it had warned residents to evacuate the buildings before the attacks to avoid civilian casualties.

Following the shellings, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya called on the US to "to restrain the Israeli aggression" and stop the nearly month-long offensive in Gaza that has seen at least 100 Palestinians killed.

"All that we ask the American administration is to take a moral stance toward the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian suffering and to bear its responsibility as a superpower in this world," he said.

Israel launched the offensive on 28 June to push back militants from the border and recover a captured soldier, Cpl Gilad Shalit, who was seized in a cross-border raid near the southern Gaza Strip.



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