IDF Tank Fire Kills Four Palestinians in Gaza, Hospital Officials Say

Gaza medics say 13 Palestinians, including children, were also wounded when Israeli tank fire struck a home in the Strip; IDF says they fired towards militants who had launched mortars against troops.

Israel Defense Forces tank fire struck a home in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday killing four Palestinians, two of whom were from the same family and wounding another 13, Gaza hospital officials said.

The IDF said Palestinian militants had launched mortars against Israeli troops Tuesday and the military shot mortars at the source of the firing.

Rubble in Gaza - Reuters - March 22, 2011

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an IDF spokeswoman, said the army did not know that civilians were in the area at the time of the strike and stressed that Israel had no desire to raise tensions and hoped that Hamas also didn't have that intention. "We never operate when civilians are identified," she said.

Palestinian medics said the dead youths were aged 12, 16 and 17. The 58-year-old owner of the house was also killed.

Locals said four Israeli tank shells struck the building east of Gaza City.

Israel hit a series of Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip earlier Tuesday, damaging smuggling tunnels and suspected weapons sites. Palestinian officials said 19 people were wounded in those attacks.

On Saturday, southern Israel was hit by over 50 rockets, of which Hamas claimed responsibility for 10. The Israeli Air Force struck Gaza targets in retaliation for the bombardment.

On Monday, an IAF fighter jet struck a Gaza tunnel running along the border with Israel, as well as Hamas militants in the northern Gaza strip, an IDF statement confirmed.

The IDF spokesperson's office released a statement saying that the Gaza tunnel was used to smuggle terrorists into Israeli territory with the intent to execute attacks against Israeli citizens.