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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 23:14 GMT
Seven die in Israeli raid on Gaza
Relatives grieve for one of eight Palestinians killed in Beit Hanoun [1 Nov]
Eight Palestinians were killed in clashes on Wednesday
Seven Palestinians have been killed in northern Gaza on the second day of a major Israeli operation, hospital officials say.

Eight Palestinians - including five militants - and an Israeli soldier died during clashes on Wednesday.

Israel says the operation - one of its biggest in Gaza in recent months - is to stop rocket fire into Israel.

Tanks surrounded a mosque in Beit Hanoun where about 60 Palestinian men fled to avoid Israeli forces.

The men went into the mosque to avoid being detained by Israeli soldiers.

Helicopters flew over the mosque and witnesses said Israeli forces fired stun grenades into the mosque, Reuters news agency reports.

A large number of Palestinian men were assembled in Beit Hanoun for questioning.

The move was intended to "avoid friction and reduce shooting incidents", Reuters news agency quoted a spokeswoman as saying.

"I have no doubt that the vast majority will then be allowed to return home unhindered," she said.

Palestinian anger

The raid began on Wednesday, when troops carried out three air strikes and then, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, moved to encircle the town of Beit Hanoun.

Gaza map

As the operation continued into its second day, helicopter gunships fired missiles onto the town, tanks patrolled the streets, snipers took up rooftop positions and troops conducted house-to-house searches, the Associated Press reported.

A 70-year-old Palestinian civilian was one of those killed on Thursday.

Medical officials said a policewoman, several militants and two other civilians were also killed.

But the Israeli army said militant fire had continued, with two rockets fired over the border. Two people were reported injured.

Palestinian leaders have strongly condemned the Israeli raid.

Both the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, have described the Israeli military action as a massacre.

Israeli soldiers cover the body of a dead solider, killed during an operation in northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun
An Israeli soldier was killed during the Beit Hanoun raid
The Israeli army confirmed the death of one of its soldiers some hours after Palestinian militant groups issued statements saying they had killed an Israeli.

Israeli forces have made regular incursions into Gaza since late June, following the capture of an Israeli soldier on 25 June in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants.

Since the capture of Cpl Gilad Shalit, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli army operations in Gaza and the West Bank, according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.

Details on the latest Israeli operation in Gaza

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