Three Palestinians, including a senior commander of the militant group Hamas, have been killed during an Israeli Army raid in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian hospital sources and witnesses in Gaza say three Palestinians, including a member of the Islamic militant group Hamas, have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers. At least nine other Palestinians are said to have been wounded in the fighting early Saturday around the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. A Palestinian woman and man were killed along with the Hamas militant.
The incident occurred as a group of gunmen tried to enter a building that Israeli soldiers were using as a defensive position. Palestinian witnesses said Israeli snipers fired on the group from the rooftop of the building. The Israeli military said it fired at three Palestinians who were trying to plant an explosive device.
One of those killed was Tariq Abu Hussein, a well-known local commander of the military wing of Hamas.
A 28-year-old woman, Widad Jirami, was also killed along with her 26-year-old brother-in-law, Hussam Mughier. Witnesses said the two were shot as they tried to help one of the gunmen who had been wounded near their house.
Israel's military has been operating in Rafah to try to find and destroy tunnels used by Palestinians to smuggle weapons across the Egyptian border. Israel says it launched the new operation after it received intelligence warnings that Palestinians might be trying to smuggle more advanced weapons, like anti-aircraft missiles, through the tunnels. Previously only small arms ammunition and lighter weapons like assault rifles were being smuggled through the tunnels.
Seven Palestinians were killed in clashes during the first day of the incursion on October 10.
Rafah and its refugee camp have been a nearly daily battleground, with gunmen attacking army outposts and clashing with soldiers searching for tunnels used to smuggle weapons across the border. The Israeli military frequently bulldozes homes that it says are used by gunmen.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, said earlier this week that 114 homes had been destroyed at the start of the latest operation, leaving 1,240 people homeless. The Israeli army has said about 30 buildings were knocked down.
U.S. investigators met Friday with Palestinian security officials in Gaza to help probe a bombing earlier in the week that killed three American security officers traveling in a diplomatic convoy. Palestinian police have arrested several people in connection with the incident.