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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 17:37 GMT
Female bomber strikes in Gaza
A woman in Beit Hanoun sits by a sack of food
There is a shortage of power and water in Beit Hanoun
A female Palestinian suicide bomber has blown herself up in a Gaza Strip town, injuring an Israeli soldier, the Israeli army says.

She died after detonating her bomb near Israeli soldiers in Beit Hanoun, focus of a six-day military offensive.

Earlier, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was killed in an air strike on the northern town of Jabaliya.

Israel says it is targeting rocket-firing Palestinian militants operating from northern Gaza.

But Palestinian officials have accused Israel of carrying out a "massacre".

About 50 Palestinians have died in the country's latest military incursion into the area.

Curfew imposed

The Islamic Jihad militant group said the female suicide bomber was one of its members, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says.

A radio station linked to Hamas reported that many civilians were injured when the woman blew herself up, AP reports.

During the Jabaliya air strike, at least four people were hurt in the attack near a school, Palestinian officials told Reuters news agency.

I am following with deep worry the news about the grave deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip, and I want to express my closeness to the civilian population, which is suffering the consequences of the acts of violence
Pope Benedict

The Israeli military said its aircraft had attacked a group of militants retrieving a device used to fire a missile, in Monday's attack.

But the Palestinians said the plane missed its target and, instead, struck close to a school.

The entire town of Beit Hanoun remains under Israeli control and troops have ordered residents to stay indoors.

Our correspondent says there are severe shortages of water and power, and the arrival of a small United Nations aid convoy on Monday sparked frantic scenes.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has declined to say when the operation centred on Beit Hanoun will end, but insists Israel has no intention of reoccupying the Gaza Strip.

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

Despite the crackdown, a rocket hit the Israeli border town of Sderot on Sunday, but no-one was hurt.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniya have called the operation a "massacre" and urged the UN Security Council to convene to discuss the issue.

International criticism

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI said he was very worried about the situation in Gaza, and called on all sides to work to stop the bloodshed and to immediately resume direct and concrete negotiations.

Palestinian paramedics in Gaza
The Red Cross has criticised the killing by Israeli force of paramedics

The European Union presidency, currently held by Finland, has issued a statement deploring "the growing number of civilian casualties the Israeli military operation has caused".

The International Red Cross also criticised Israel for the killing of two medical workers, saying that the paramedics and their vehicle were clearly marked.

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