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Israel Continues Air Strikes, 13 Killed in Gaza - 2004-05-18

Israeli forces have launched air strikes in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza, killing at least 13 Palestinians and wounding 30 others. Israeli ground forces have also moved into the area in an operation that Israel says is aimed at halting arms smuggling from neighboring Egypt and arresting or killing wanted Palestinian militants.

Israeli military helicopters fired missiles into the Rafah refugee camp in two separate raids, early Tuesday. The Israeli Army says both raids were aimed at groups of armed Palestinian militants.

Palestinian doctors say that at least three of those killed were members of Hamas, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Israeli tanks and bulldozers also moved into the camp, as soldiers carried out house-to-house searches for Palestinian militants. Some of the troops exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen.

The operation was triggered by Palestinian attacks against Israeli forces, last week -- including the killing of five soldiers in an armored vehicle patrolling southern Gaza to find and destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels.

The Palestinian leadership has called on the international community to help stop the Israeli military offensive and prevent more Palestinians from being killed.