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Israel Claims Responsibility for Blast that Kills 5 in Gaza - 2004-08-18


Israel says it was responsible for an explosion in an apartment in the Gaza Strip that killed five Palestinians and wounded seven others, four of them critically.

Palestinian hospital officials say the presumed target of the attack, Ahmed Jabari, survived with leg wounds. The dead were identified as Mr. Jabari's son, his brother, his son-in-law, his cousin and a relative of Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, the former Hamas leader who was killed in an Israeli missile attack in April. An Israeli army statement said only that its forces "targeted a senior Hamas terrorist."

Palestinians witnesses said they did not see or hear a missile strike the building where the explosion occurred. They said they saw no warplanes or helicopters in the area, only a remotely piloted aerial vehicle.

Palestinians have accused Israel of using unmanned aircraft to trigger explosions in the past, a charge Israel has not responded to. There have also been incidents in which Palestinians were killed when explosives they were working with went off prematurely.

Israel has killed a number of prominent Hamas leaders in air strikes this year.

On Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinian militants trying to plant a bomb near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

And, in the West Bank, Palestinian medics say Israeli troops shot and killed a nine-year-old boy during a confrontation with stone-throwers in the city of Nablus. Israel says it is investigating the incident.