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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 22:30 GMT
Gazans gather to foil air strike
Women and children mingled with militants to deter an Israeli strike

Palestinians have again flocked to a home in Gaza to prevent a possible Israeli air force attack.

The house belonged to a senior member of the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas. Israel has not confirmed it planned an attack there.

Similar action on Saturday caused Israel to call off an air strike on the home of another militant leader.

Separately, two Hamas militants were killed when a missile hit their car in Gaza City, Palestinian sources said.

The incidents came as the senior UN human rights official toured Beit Hanoun, a town at the centre of a recent Israeli army operation.

Target zone

The owner of the house in Beit Lahiya, Wael Rajab, says the Israelis had warned him that they planned to attack his home.

The violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories are intolerable. I think it's clear that civilians are tremendously exposed
Louise Arbour, UN high commissioner for human rights

The BBC's Alan Johnston says the air force often telephones a warning 10 minutes before a strike to keep down casualties.

Mosques in Gaza called on volunteers to assemble to protect the house.

A crowd gathered in the street and young men with Hamas flags sat on the roof, our correspondent reports.

Total: 247 fatalities
155 civilian deaths
57 deaths of children
996 wounded, including 337 children (34%)
Source: Physicians for Human Rights (28 June to 27 Oct)

Similar action on Saturday caused Israel to call off an air strike on the home of another militant leader.

For years Palestinians have been completely at the mercy of the Israeli air force, but they clearly believe that now they have found a weakness, our correspondent says.

The Israelis can no longer expect to limit civilian casualties by calling ahead and clearing people out, he adds.

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

Map showing Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip

About 400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the attacks.

Israel says that these raids are an attempt to stop rocket fire into Israel by Palestinian militants.

In the latest strike, Israel's army confirmed it had targeted a car in Gaza City.

Hamas identified the two men killed as local commanders Abdel-Qader Habib and Basil Abeid.

Meanwhile UN high commissioner for human rights Louise Arbour said she hoped her visit to Gaza would reassure innocent Palestinian civilians that the "world has not abandoned them".

In a brief visit to northern Gaza, during which she met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ms Arbour listened to the accounts of residents on the Israeli offensive on the town, in which about 80 people were killed.

"The violations of human rights in the Palestinian territories are intolerable," she said. "I think it's clear that civilians are tremendously exposed."

Suspended talks

Meanwhile, a senior aide to Mr Abbas says talks on a national unity government have been suspended. A leading Hamas representative has denied this.

There has been a long series of talks between the main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, about forming a unity government, in the hope it would lead to the lifting of Israeli and Western sanctions imposed on the present Hamas-led administration.

But negotiations have stumbled over whether a new government would explicitly recognise Israel. President Abbas has insisted that it should, and Hamas that it should not.

The United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organisation, and have called on it to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Palestinians gather on the roof of a targeted house

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