Israeli army kills seven Palestinians in Gaza


Israeli troops killed seven Palestinians, including five militants, in Gaza yesterday as the army pressed on with a massive offensive aimed at stopping militants firing rockets into Israel.

At least 87 Palestinians, 50 of them militants and the rest civilians, have been killed in the offensive with some 200 tanks and armoured vehicles - the biggest thrust into Gaza since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000.
Three Israelis have also died since the start of the raid.

The dead included a Hamas militant commander in Jabalya refugee camp, where much of the fighting has been  concentrated, witnesses said.
Despite US and international pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Mr Ariel Sharon last week ordered the army to intensify the assault, which began after militants killed two children in a rocket strike on an Israeli border town on September 29th.

The attack on Sderot, which sees almost daily rocket attacks by militants, has fuelled right-wing opposition to the prime minister's plan to evacuate all soldiers and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.

Israel has said it will press on with its northern Gaza offensive as long as rocket strikes continue. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and is the main group behind the attacks, has vowed to continue its rocket launches.

Israeli troops also killed two militants in a gunfight in the north Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, which the army says is one of the main launch sites for the makeshift rockets. Two Palestinian policemen died earlier in a missile strike in southern Gaza.
Six Palestinians, including four militants, were wounded in an Israeli air strike in Jabalya late last night, medics said. The army said it had targeted a group of gunmen. Witnesses said two of the militants had been planting a bomb at the time.