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Five family members, a mother and her four children, and a Palestinian militant were killed in an explosion in the northern Gaza Strip city of Beit Hanoun yesterday.

According to Palestinians, an Israeli missile struck the house of Miyasra Abu Muatak, burying her and her four children - Salah, Rudeynah, Hanaa and Musad, between eight months and six-years-old - beneath the rubble. Israel Defense Forces claim the main blast was caused by explosive devices laid by Palestinians that were intended for Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Neighbors say the incident occurred just as the family had sat down to eat breakfast. The children were killed instantly, and the mother died of her wounds after being pulled from the debris in critical condition. An Islamic Jihad man standing near the house was also killed in the blast.

At the time of the explosion, the father, Ahmed Abu Muatak, was out of the house with another of his children. "He lost all his children from his second wife," a local Beit Hanoun resident said of the Bedouin man, who has two wives. Two of the Abu Muatak's other children were also hurt in the blast.

Images of the children's bodies at Gaza's morgue were aired by Arab television stations yesterday and pictures were put on the Web.