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5 Palestinians die in Gaza offensive

A militant from the Hamas group carries an anti-tank weapon through alleyways in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza.
A militant from the Hamas group carries an anti-tank weapon through alleyways in Jebaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza.
Hatem Moussa, Associated Press

JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip — Israeli soldiers on Saturday shot and killed a Hamas militant who the military said was responsible for a rocket attack that killed two Israeli preschoolers last week and triggered an army offensive in northern Gaza.

Abed Nabhan, 25, was one of five Palestinians killed Saturday in the continuing Israeli operation in northern Gaza.

Nabhan, a Hamas field commander, was killed when Israeli troops shot at Hamas militants preparing to fire an anti-tank missile from the Jebaliya refugee camp.

After the deadly rocket attack on the Israeli border town of Sderot on Sept. 29, the Israeli army launched the largest incursion into northern Gaza since Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out four years ago.

About 2,000 troops and hundreds of army vehicles took control of a five-mile strip of northern Gaza in an effort to force militants out of rocket range of Israeli towns.

The army said Nabhan was responsible for the Sderot attack as well as a Sept. 30 attack on an army post in northern Gaza that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded two others.

Nabhan and three other Hamas gunmen were preparing to fire an anti-tank missile Saturday at Israeli troops in Jebaliya when the army shot first, setting off an explosion that killed Nabhan and wounded the other gunmen, the army said.

Late Saturday, two Israeli aircraft fired missiles toward Palestinians in separate incidents in Jebaliya.

The first strike, near a market, wounded four Palestinians, including two militants who were standing near a land mine, hospital officials and witnesses said. The militants were in critical condition and two bystanders were moderately wounded, hospital officials said.

The second strike seriously wounded two other militants, hospital officials said.

Israeli military sources said soldiers identified a group of Palestinian gunmen, attacked them from the air and identified a hit on at least three of them.

Earlier Saturday night, an explosion rocked a five-story house near Jebaliya, killing two people, hospital officials said. The army said the house was hit by an errant anti-tank missile fired by militants. Residents said the explosion was caused by two tank shells fired by the Israeli military.

Tanks began moving near the area late Friday and militants were active in the neighborhood, residents said.

Witnesses said the explosion hit the former home of Mahmoud Salem, one of the suicide attackers responsible for the double bombing at the Israeli port of Ashdod in March that killed 10.

The Israeli military said it was coordinating with Palestinian rescue workers to put out the fire in the house.

Earlier Saturday, a lengthy gunbattle erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops just outside the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, killing two Palestinians, according to medical officials.

The deaths brought the number of Palestinians killed to 94 since Israel began its offensive in northern Gaza. Nearly half of those killed were civilians; 18 were age 16 and under.

The gunfight in Beit Hanoun broke out when Israeli troops tried to move to the east side of the town and Palestinians tried to stop them, residents said.

Meanwhile in southern Gaza, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile Saturday morning at a group of Palestinians in the town of Khan Younis, killing two Palestinian security officers who were armed and wearing civilian clothing, hospital and security officials said.

The Israeli military said it had targeted two armed gunmen.

Later Saturday, five Israeli tanks, two bulldozers and two jeeps moved into the village of Orabia east of the southern Gaza city of Rafah and used loudspeakers to call on residents to leave their houses so they could be demolished, residents said.

The military had no immediate comment.