Hamas and Israel traded blame over the killing of a Palestinian woman and four of her children in Gaza.
Israeli troops backed by tanks and aircraft entered Beit Hanoun, a northern Gaza town, early Monday to search for Palestinian rocket crews and snipers. During the ensuing clashes, an explosion ripped through a Beit Hanoun home, killing a Palestinian woman and four of her young children. An unrelated youth also died.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas faction blamed Israeli shelling for the deaths, which drew Palestinian vows of revenge despite recent efforts by Egypt to secure a truce in the territory.
But Israeli military officials, after investigating the incident, said forces in Beit Hanoun had fired only on Palestinian gunmen. In one of these incidents, the officials said, explosives carried by a gunman went off, causing the carnage in the home.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Hamas should be held to account for operating within populated areas.
“Israel’s armed forces are operating and will continue to operate against Hamas,” he told reporters. “Hamas is also responsible because of its activities among civilians for those non-combatants who fall casualty to these operations.”
Separately, Israeli forces killed at least one Islamic Jihad gunman in Beit Hanoun. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly hurt by Palestinian gunfire.