Text size

At least eleven Palestinians were killed and 50 were wounded in an Israel Defense Forces raid aimed at ending mortar and rocket attacks from the town of Khan Yunis, which began Thursday and ended Saturday night.

According to Palestinian witnesses, three of those killed were civilians, and seven of the wounded were children, including a three-year-old toddler. Three journalists were also lightly wounded.

Six of the dead were militants and two were civilian bystanders, local medics and witnesses said. Two of the militants were killed in a missile strike.

IDF soldiers shot dead a Palestinian militant on Saturday on the second day of a raid in the southern Gaza Strip, medics and witnesses said.

The IDF said soldiers shot in two separate instances at gunmen who approached their forces on Saturday. It did not say what happened to four gunmen who were shot.

In a second incident, a militant was killed when an IDF tank fired on him after he shot off an anti-tank rocket, and three other people were wounded by IDF fire that landed near a hospital, medics and witnesses said.

Six other Palestinians were wounded in Khan Yunis on Saturday.

Palestinians have been unable to bury any of those killed in the raid in Gaza's second largest city because IDF troops are in control at the local cemetery, medics said.

A Qassam rocket landed in a residential area in Sderot on Saturday, causing damage to a car. No injuries were reported.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians rescued six men from the rubble of a collapsed weapons-smuggling tunnel along the Gaza-Egypt border. The men had been trapped underground for over 12 hours.

The six men prevented the tunnel from caving in on them by reinforcing the walls of the tunnel with wood. They were also equipped with oxygen masks, enabling them to survive long enough for rescue services to extract them from the tunnel.

Witnesses said Palestinians in the town rescued the men, including a militant, by pulling them out of shaft dug under a house that connected to the tunnel. They were greeted by cheers and many Palestinians fired guns into the air in celebration.

"They are okay and are in good health," a witness said. "They are smoking cigarettes."

Palestinians ambulances had been given clearance by Israel to get to the scene of the tunnel collapse, which is usually off-limits to Palestinians.

The tunnel, which is located between an IDF base and the south Gaza area of Rafah, collapsed late Thursday, but neighborhood residents only discovered the gaping hole that remained of the tunnel on Friday.

One soldier operating in the raid suffered light to moderate wounds from an anti-tank missile fired by militants, the Itim news agency reported. An additional soldier was treated for shock.

IDF tanks and bulldozers moved into Khan Yunis early Friday morning to knock down buildings used as cover by militants, in an operation intended to reduce the number of mortar and rocket attacks from the camp at nearby settlements, the IDF said.

Hundreds of Palestinians fled their homes for fear the army would demolish them. The families sought refuge in a nearby hospital, a stadium and at the homes of relatives who don't live on the front line of fighting.

As the troops continued their raid Friday, Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets at the western Negev. They hit open areas and caused no injuries.

One mortar shell landed in and industrial zone in the northern Gaza Strip. One factory was damaged, Israel Radio reported on Friday night.

Palestinians also fired anti-tank missiles at the troops and detonated an explosive device near them, causing no casualties, Israel Radio said.

IDF commander Ofer Winter said the army would stay in Khan Yunis indefinitely.

"The forces are prepared to stay in the refugee camp for as long as it takes to secure quiet in the Israeli communities," he told Israel Radio, referring to Gaza Strip settlements and the Negev town of Sderot, which have been frequent targets of mortar and rocket fire.

IAF aircraft on Friday attacked two empty buildings in Gaza City that the army said were used by militants as weapons factories. Palestinian hospital officials reported no injuries.

The late-night strikes came as Israeli forces in southern Gaza continued a daylong raid into the Khan Yunis refugee camp following a week of Palestinian mortar and rocket barrages targeting nearby Israeli settlements and military bases.

The IDF said both buildings hit Friday were used by Hamas militants to manufacture weapons, including the homemade Qassam rockets often fired at Israeli targets.

In the last week, Palestinians have fired 50 mortar shells at settlements and military posts in the Gaza Strip, killing a Thai laborer and wounding 15 soldiers and a civilian, Israel Radio said. Eleven of the soldiers were hurt just a few hours before the raid began.

IAF destroys Gaza munitions workshopThe raid came several hours after an IAF helicopter gunship fired a missile at a Gaza Strip workshop which the army said was used by Palestinian militants to store munitions, destroying it but causing no casualties.

Palestinian witnesses said the target was a basement carpentry shop in Rafah refugee camp on Gaza's flashpoint border with Egypt. An IDF spokeswoman said the workshop contained mortar bombs stowed away by Hamas.

Troops also targeted a building hiding a tunnel in south Gaza apparently used to smuggle weapons, Israel Radio said.