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Page last updated at 21:26 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 22:26 UK

Family killed during raid in Gaza

A woman mourns during the funeral of four children and their mother killed in the Gaza Strip, 28 April 2008
Palestinians held a funeral for the children on Monday

Israelis and Palestinians have blamed each other for an explosion that killed a mother and her four children in Gaza.

Doctors and residents in Beit Hanoun blamed Israeli tank fire, but the Israeli army said explosives carried by Palestinian militants were responsible.

The army had attacked two gunmen from the air, who must have been carrying explosives that then blew up, it said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the violence, saying it was obstructing the peace process.

The children were aged between one and six years old, medics said.

Reuters news agency cited medical staff saying that another Palestinian civilian was also killed in the blast.

'Period of quiet'

In separate incidents, two militants were also killed during clashes with Israeli troops around Beit Hanoun on Monday.

The area is often used by Palestinian militants to launch rockets at Israel.

Clashes between Israeli ground forces and Palestinian militants on Sunday in nearby Beit Lahiya left a 14-year-old girl dead and eight others injured.

On Friday, the Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, proposed a six-month "period of quiet" in Gaza, which it said could then be extended to the West Bank.

Israel dismissed the proposal as a ruse to allow Hamas to "re-arm and re-group".

Breakfast

Israeli ground forces moved into the Gaza Strip early on Monday morning and entered Beit Hanoun, not far from the border.

Map

During the incursion, a missile smashed through the ceiling of one family's one-storey house while they were having breakfast, witnesses said.

A mother and four of her children - two girls and two boys aged between one and six - were killed, doctors at a local hospital said.

"I left the house just moments before to look for one of my children. I heard the sound of the explosion, and when I returned to the house I found my wife and my children," said 70-year-old father Ahmed Abu Maateq.

"They had been eating breakfast and my wife had been holding our youngest child in her hands," he said.

"I hope to God that the same thing that happened to me happens to whoever fired that missile at my house, that what happened to my wife and children happens to his family," he said.

Several other people were injured by the blast, some of them critically.

Residents said no militants were killed by the explosion.

'Human shields'

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the air force and army had attacked gunmen who fired upon its troops during an operation in the area launched to "ensure that rocket crews, snipers and tunnel diggers are kept away from the border fence".

Aftermath of the raid in the Gaza

The Israeli army said it had "targeted from the air two Palestinian gunmen who were approaching the soldiers while carrying large bags on their backs.

"A big explosion erupted on the scene... indicating the presence of bombs and explosives in the gunmen's bags," the army said.

"As a result of this big explosion, extensive damage was caused to a house that was near the gunmen and uninvolved civilians were hit."

Mr Abbas told the Palestinian Wafa news agency the incident "does not serve efforts being exerted to achieve calm, and it obstructs the peace process".

Hamas said one of its fighters had earlier shot an Israeli solder in Beit Hanoun. The Israeli military confirmed a soldier was slightly wounded.

More than 400 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the last five months, many of them civilians.

The militant group Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since June 2007, when its fighters drove out the forces of Mr Abbas's Fatah movement.

Also on Monday, the UN said it would resume deliveries of food aid to the Gaza Strip.

The UN suspended distribution of aid last week amid fuel shortages caused by cuts in Israeli supplies to the area and a strike by Palestinian petrol station owners.



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