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Palestinian Officials: 6 Palestinians, Including Militants, Killed in Gaza

  • Robert Berger

Palestinian medical officials say the Israeli army has killed six Palestinians, including five militants, in two incidents in the Gaza Strip. They say Israeli troops have killed a Palestinian and wounded three others in an operation east of Gaza City near the Israeli border.

Earlier Saturday, an Israeli air strike near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis killed five members of the Islamic militant group Hamas. As Robert Berger reports, from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, tensions are escalating in Gaza as peace moves intensify.

Israeli aircraft targeted armed Palestinians from the Islamic militant group Hamas near the Gaza border. The army says it launched the raid after militants stepped up rocket and mortar attacks and infiltration attempts. Israeli officials believe Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, is trying to torpedo the international peace conference held in the United States earlier this week.

At the conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to resume talks after a seven year break. The negotiations are aimed at creating a Palestinian state that will live alongside Israel in peace

Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel, routed the Fatah forces of Mr. Abbas in a Gaza civil war in June. Now, Mr. Abbas heads a more moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Hamas official Halil Abu Leleh says the Annapolis conference was aimed at ending armed "resistance."

Abu Lelleh says Hamas will continue to fight Israel until the Palestinians achieve their rights.

Therefore, Israel's military plans to step up air and ground operations in Gaza, says Israeli analyst and former government official Ra'anan Gissin.

"We are going to apply the pressure on Hamas, because what we have today in Gaza is a ticking time bomb. And it's ticking because Hamas is continuing to rearm itself, continuing to smuggle weapons into the territories and increasing its military buildup," he said.

Israeli officials say that in an eventual Palestinian state, Gaza would have to be under the control of Palestinian moderates.

Palestinian militants in Gaza say that in response to Saturday's deadly air strike they will launch longer-range rockets at Israel.

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