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Israel kills 7 in Gaza, woman attempts suicide attack

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Nov 23 (Reuters) Israeli forces today killed seven Palestinians, including a top militant commander, in raids in the northern Gaza Strip while a 57-year-old grandmother blew herself up near soldiers.

The army said soldiers spotted the woman approaching them with an explosive device near the Jabalya refugee camp and threw a stun grenade at her. The woman detonated the device, killing herself, the army said. Three soldiers were slightly wounded.

The Israeli operations came a day after the government decided to press on with a five-month-old offensive in Gaza but not order a massive assault to curb an upsurge in Palestinian militant rocket strikes on the Jewish state.

The armed wing of the governing Hamas movement claimed responsibility for the attempted suicide bombing and identified the woman as Fatima al-Nejar.

Her family said she had nine children and nearly 30 grandchildren. She was the first known Palestinian grandmother to attempt a suicide bombing against Israelis.

''I am very proud of what she did. Allahu Akbar (God is greatest),'' one of her sons, Fuad, 31, told Reuters.

On a video released by Hamas, the woman read out a statement saying said she wanted to dedicate her death to Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

She wore a black suicide belt and had an M-16 assault rifle slung over her neck.

''I offer myself as a sacrifice to God and to the homeland,'' she said.

An Israeli air strike on a car killed three militants from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), including Fayeq Abu Al-Qumsan, who was the militant group's commander for northern Gaza, residents said. The PRC has been behind many of the recent rocket attacks against Israeli border towns.

Israeli soldiers also fought gunbattles with gunmen, witnesses said. Hospital officials said a 20-year-old civilian man was shot dead by Israeli troops east of the town of Beit Lahiya. The army said it was checking the report.

Residents said troops backed by tanks earlier thrust into Beit Lahiya. Tanks firing machineguns stormed a housing project, killing a 19-year-old man, hospital officials said.

Israel said troops were operating around Beit Lahiya, but denied forces were in densely populated areas.

Four Israeli soldiers were wounded by anti-tank missiles, the army said.

UNITY TALKS? Residents said the incursion into Beit Lahiya was one of the biggest since Israel launched its offensive in late June after gunmen, including Hamas members, abducted a soldier in a cross-border raid from Gaza.

The objective was then broadened to target rocket-launching squads, who have killed two Israelis in the past week. Militants say the rockets are a response to army assaults.

Israel has killed nearly 380 Palestinians in Gaza, about half of them civilians, since it began the offensive, hospital officials and residents say. Three soldiers have been killed.

On the Palestinian political front, Hamas sources said Haniyeh had met President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah in Gaza, a sign that unity government negotiations were back on track.

Hamas sources described the meeting as ''positive'' but did not elaborate. A senior Fatah official declined to comment on the meeting but said the two men would hold more discussions tonight to try to bridge differences.

The talks, aimed at lifting Western sanctions on the Hamas government, had been suspended on Monday partly because of disputes over distribution of cabinet seats.

Reuters SBA VP0045

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