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Three Palestinians killed in northern Gaza violence

Updated:
JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Israeli troops shot at Hamas militants about to fire an anti-tank missile Saturday, setting off an explosion that killed one man and wounded three, the army and hospital officials said.

Palestinian witnesses initially described the incident in the Jebaliya refugee camp as an Israeli missile attack from a helicopter. However, the military said troops fired shots at the Palestinians' missile launcher, detonating it.

A Hamas field commander was killed in the explosion.

Earlier Saturday, a lengthy gunbattle erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops just outside the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, killing two Palestinians, according to medical officials.

The deaths brought to 92 the number of Palestinians killed in the 11-day-old Israeli offensive in northern Gaza that is aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket attacks. Almost half of those killed in the raid were civilians, 18 were age 16 and under.

The gunfight in Beit Hanoun broke out when Israeli troops tried to move to the east side of the town and Palestinians tried to stop them, residents said.

Also Saturday, about 15 Israeli tanks moved toward the nearby village of Beit Lahiya, apparently attempting to enter it. The tank advance was accompanied by explosions and machine-gun fire from helicopters and tanks, which wounded two people, residents said.

Meanwhile in southern Gaza, an Israeli aircraft fired a missile Saturday morning at a group of Palestinians in the town of Khan Younis, killing two armed Palestinian security officers who were wearing civilian clothing, hospital and security officials said.

The Israeli military said it had targeted two armed gunmen.
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