Five militants killed in clashes with Israeli army in Gaza

Israel Materials 16 April 2008 11:52 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Separate early-morning clashes in the Gaza Strip Wednesday left five Palestinian militants dead, four from Hamas and one from the Islamic Jihad, Palestinian and Israeli spokesmen said.

The four Hamas militants were killed, and five others wounded, as they confronted an Israeli army force in eastern Gaza City.

Hamas' armed wing said it fired around 57 mortars at the force consisting of tanks, armoured vehicles and bulldozers.

An Israeli military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said the force was on a "routine operation" against the infrastructure which allowed missiles and mortars to be fired from the area at southern Israel.

She confirmed the force had come under fire.

Residents of Sheja'eya neighbourhood said the Israeli operation began at around midnight, with explosions and gunfire lasting for the rest of the night.

They said he Israeli force pulled back across the border in the early hours of the morning, having stormed several houses and detained a senior Hamas member, who is the brother of Khalil el- Hayya, a Hamas leader in parliament.

They said dozens of Hamas militants clashed with Israeli soldiers, launching rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at the Israeli army tanks and vehicles.

One soldier was wounded in the clashes, the military spokeswoman said.

The Islamic Jihad meanwhile said in a statement that one of its militants was shot dead in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers near the borders between the southern Strip town of Rafah and Israel.

Overnight, an Islamic Jihad militant was also killed - and two bystanders wounded - when an Israeli aircraft hit him with a missile as he drove his motorcycle in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip.