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6 PALESTINIANS KILLED IN GAZA APARTMENT BLAST

At least six Palestinians died and 30 were injured Sunday when explosives, apparently being prepared by Hamas militants, shattered a Gaza City apartment building described as a "bomb factory" by Palestinian police.

Authorities said two of the men who died in the explosion were Islamic extremists on Israel's most-wanted list and also sought by Palestinian police in the self-rule area of the Gaza Strip.Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, has taken credit for a string of suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel in its violent campaign against the Israel-PLO accord.

Israeli state radio reported eight people were killed, however, Palestinian police put the death toll at six. Both reported about 30 wounded. A Palestinian authority spokesman reached Sunday night could not confirm the death toll.

Clearly, though, the mid-afternoon explosion was intense, ripping walls off the second-story of the building and exposing an apartment whose ceiling was splattered with blood. Three compressed-air canisters, believed to be nail-packed bombs, were removed from the site along with hand grenades, police said.

Witnesses said body parts were strewn among the road in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, an Islamic militant stronghold in Gaza City.

Among the victims was Kamal Khahil, a senior figure in the Izzedine al-Qassam, the militant wing of Hamas, who was wanted by both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, Israel state radio reported.

Israeli TV reported Sunday night that papers found in the bombed-out building included plans for bombing attacks inside Israel and in the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. The report also said letters linked the militants to contacts in Iran.

Eyewitnesses said some children were also among the dead.

A Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahhar, visited the neighborhood after the blast and told residents that Hamas was not responsible for the explosion.

"This is a plot. They were assassinated, it was carried out by an explosives expert, this happened before, and when we discover who was behind it, his fate will as bad as this," Zahhar said.