Israel shells eastern Gaza after mortar attacks, three killed

Israel shelled the eastern outskirts of Gaza City Tuesday afternoon, killing three Palestinians, after militants launched a barrage of mortars at Israeli targets across the nearby border, reported dpa.

The dead were identified as two militants of the radical Islamic Hamas movement ruling Gaza, and one civilian bystander. Five other Palestinians were wounded, including four minors, Mo'aweya Hassanein, the chief of emergency services at the Hamas-run Health Ministry, told reporters.

An Israeli military spokesman said Israeli artillery stationed on the border fired twice at groups of militants, who he said had launched at least 20 mortar shells from the area into Israel.

Hamas' armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, said in a leaflet that its militants fired a volley of 14 mortar shells at the Nahal Oz fuel crossing, on the border with Israel, east of Gaza City. The Israeli shelling on eastern Gaza was a response to the attack.

The Israeli-Palestinian escalation on Tuesday came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convening his cabinet to decide on a large-scale military operation on Gaza.

At the same time, Egypt has been mediating a truce between Israel and Gaza's militant groups, but the truce talks have as yet achieved no results. dpa sar ok ms

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