An Israeli missile strike killed one Palestinian and wounded five early today, hours after militants killed an Israeli-American woman in the first deadly shelling of a Jewish settlement in Gaza in four years of fighting.
The settlement attack, just before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, was likely to mobilize further opposition to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip next year. The militant Hamas group claimed responsibility for firing two mortars at the Neve Dekalim settlement in southern Gaza.
A Hamas video showed three masked militants firing a mortar. After the shell was fired, heavy gunfire could be heard _ apparently the Israeli return fire at the nearby Palestinian town of Khan Younis. The Israeli fire wounded two Palestinians, including a 4-year-old boy, witnesses said.
One of the Hamas mortars hit a house in Neve Dekalim, wounding two women who were taken to a hospital in southern Israel for treatment. One of the women, identified as Tiferet Tratner, died of her wounds, and the second was slightly hurt. Eran Sternberg, a settler spokesman in Gaza, said Tratner also held U.S. citizenship.
Early today, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles toward a group of Palestinians on the outskirts of a nearby refugee camp. Hospital officials said the dead and wounded were civilians.
Later, about 70 tanks and army bulldozers drove toward the Khan Younis camp, setting off heavy exchanges of fire as soldiers called on residents over loudspeakers to leave their homes, witnesses said.
The Israeli military said the helicopter opened fire when four militants tried to launch a rocket or a rocket-propelled grenade. The military said at least two of those involved in the launch were hit.