08 July 2004
Israeli soldiers killed six Palestinian militants during a fierce gun battle in the northern Gaza Strip today, Palestinian security and medical officials said, as an operation to destroy Palestinian rocket launchers entered its 10th day.
The officials said the gunmen were killed in the town of Beit Hanoun. Witnesses said two of the dead were affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militant organisation linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, and one with the militant Hamas.
Palestinian witnesses said Israeli ambulances were seen moving in the area near a farm in the north-eastern part of the town. They said heavy machine gun fire was heard throughout the vicinity.
The Israeli army said it was checking the reports.
Israeli forces moved into Beit Hanoun on June 28 in an attempt to locate and destroy Palestinian rocket launchers targeting southern Israel.
On June 27 a three-year-old boy and a 49-year-old man were killed in the Israeli city of Sderot, one mile north of the Gaza border, when militants fired a home-made Qassam rocket into a crowded residential area.
In other Gaza violence, four Palestinians were wounded when Israeli troops entered the Khan Yunis refugee camp, Palestinian witnesses said. The witnesses said troops destroyed eight houses in the area.
An army spokesman said all the houses were abandoned, and had been used by Palestinian militants to target Israeli forces operating in the vicinity.