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Israeli air strike in Gaza injures seven civilians

RIA Novosti

08/10/2007 12:43 TEL AVIV, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli aircraft delivered an air strike on a group of Palestinian militants in northern Gaza on Monday, injuring several people, the army press service and local radio said.

Gaza militants have recently intensified their rocket attacks on Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, firing the Soviet-designed Grad-type rockets, instead of the more commonly used, and cruder, Qassam-type rockets.

The army said the air strike hit the militants' position whilst the Palestinians were firing rockets at southern Israel.

However, the Kol Israel radio station reported that seven civilians were injured by the Israeli strike, and that the militants had abandoned their position, successfully evading the attack.

The Israeli military earlier said there were several dozen 122-mm Grad-type rockets in the hands of militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which were reportedly seized by Hamas Islamists in June.

Haaretz Daily, a leading Israeli newspaper, cited Fatah sources as saying that Gaza militants had recently received a shipment of 70 Grad rockets from abroad.

On Sunday, militants fired a Grad rocket 11 kilometers (about 6.5 miles) deep into Israeli territory, striking an open area of land near the southern Israeli city of Netivot. No casualties were reported.

Grad-type or Katyusha rockets can hit targets 19 to 30 kilometers (12 to 19 miles) away, about twice the range of the thousands of homemade Qassam projectiles that Palestinian militants have fired at Israeli border communities in recent years.

Katyushas are deadlier than Qassams and put larger Israeli communities near Gaza, including the coastal city of Ashkelon, within the range of Plaestinian militants in Gaza.

In September, Israel declared the Gaza Strip, with a population of 1.5 million, an "enemy entity," and said it would reduce fuel and power supplies. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned that Israel may launch a large-scale military operation in the enclave, complicating plans for a U.S.-proposed Middle East conference scheduled for November.

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