Seven die in Israeli raid

The violence, at a time of increased tensions between rival Palestinian Factions, came as an armed group linked to president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party rescued a US student abducted by rival militants in the West Bank.

Five of those killed belonged to the same family. They died after an Israeli aircraft fired a missile into a group of people in Abassan, near the southern town of Khan Yunis, medical and security sources said.

Overnight, a little girl was also killed and eight other people wounded in an air raid on the Gaza City home of Ashraf Sirwana, a top official of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, who managed to escape, witnesses said.

An army spokesman confirmed the attack on Sirwana’s house, saying the man was “implicated in attacks on Israel and the fabrication of arms.”

Another 15 Palestinians were wounded, including people brought in over night, during exchanges of fire with Israeli ground troops who pushed into the territory a short distance across the border from the Jewish state. One of the wounded later died.

Israel confirms strikes

The Israeli military confirmed both air strikes and the launch overnight of a ground operation targeting “tunnels and other terror infrastructure” in the Khan Yunis area, saying its troops were periodically coming under fire.

“During that operation overnight there were several occasions in which gunmen opened fire on the forces. The forces returned fire and in all identified hitting six gunmen,” a spokesman said.

“Other than that, there was an air force attack on a group of four armed gunmen who were identified approaching the forces and we identified hitting those gunmen,” the spokesman added.

Hostage release

Meanwhile in the West Bank, a Fatah official said the armed group Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades had freed a US student seized by other militants and delivered him to a member of the Abbas-headed Palestine Liberation Organisation.

“Men from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade released the American student who had been taken hostage in Nablus this evening and he is now safe and sound and in a
safe place,” said Fatah official Jamal Tirawi.