Israeli strikes kill 7 gunmen in Gaza

Published October 15, 2006

JERUSALEM - Israeli troops killed seven Palestinian gunmen in airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and set up a detention center outside the territory, part of an offensive aimed at stopping rocket fire on Israel during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Saturday afternoon, aircraft fired three missiles at a car carrying two militants, killing at least one, Palestinian security officials said.

The Israeli army said the strike targeted militants with ties to the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. An official said the men had launched rocket attacks at Israel.

Earlier Saturday, a missile strike killed six gunmen from the Islamic militant group Hamas, Palestinian security officials said. Fifteen people were wounded in those strikes east of Gaza City.

More than a dozen Israeli tanks also moved in the area, and security officials reported exchanges of fire between the Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen.

The Israeli military said the early morning clash began when militants fired an antitank missile at an Israeli bulldozer. Troops responded with fire from the air and the ground. The army confirmed that troops hit a group of Palestinian gunmen.

Saturday's deaths brought to 21 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops in the past three days. Most of the dead were militants.

On Friday, the army set up a detention center next to Israel's border with Gaza to interrogate dozens of Palestinians detained in the latest incursions, an army spokeswoman said.

She said she could not say how many Palestinians were detained.

Photos published by the Israeli Web site Ynet showed soldiers guarding a group of blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinians. One soldier held a water bottle to a detainee's mouth.

The army said it hoped to prevent rocket fire during the weeklong Jewish Sukkot holiday, or Feast of Tabernacles, which ends today.