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6 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Air Strike in Gaza Strip


Six Palestinians, including four militants, have been killed in an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip. The raid is part of the background of Israeli efforts to free a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in June.

An Israeli drone fired two missiles at Palestinian militants in the village of Abasan in southern Gaza. Palestinian officials say four gunmen from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas were killed along with a teenage bystander.

The army said it fired at a group of gunmen in an area known for weapons smuggling near the Egyptian border.

The military wing of Hamas responded to the raid by firing six rockets into Israel. No one was hurt.

Israel has launched almost daily raids in Gaza, since Hamas gunmen kidnapped an Israeli soldier more than three months ago in a cross-border attack. Publicly, Israel has rejected Hamas demands to exchange the captive soldier for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

"If we succumb to the hostage demands, to these ransom demands, then essentially we are succumbing to terrorism and tomorrow morning we will wake up and we will see that more soldiers are abducted," said Israeli spokeswoman Miri Eisen.

At the same time, Israeli officials acknowledge that Egypt is mediating a possible prisoner swap.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Israel, Arab moderates and the international community are backing the Egyptian effort.

"There is a great pressure on the Egyptians to move with this exchange deal as soon as possible in order to ban radical militants from causing further obstacles," he said.

Israeli and Arab media say Israel is prepared to release at least 800 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the captive soldier. But Hamas is holding out for a higher price. Despite a flurry of reports that a swap is imminent, the sides have been unable to close the deal.

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