Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blast in Hamas bomb-maker's house kills four

GAZA (Reuters) - An explosion destroyed a Hamas bomb-maker's house in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least four people, including a baby, in what Hamas called an Israeli air strike and Israel described as an internal blast.

The explosion, which also wounded about 25 people, destroyed the two-storey dwelling and damaged several other homes in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, an area from which militants frequently fire rockets into southern Israel.

Hamas said an Israeli aircraft attacked the house belonging to Ahmed Hamouda, whom it described as one of its senior bomb-makers. An Israeli military spokeswoman denied any Israeli involvement.

"It was not related to the IDF (Israel Defence Forces). There were no IDF operations. It was an internal explosion," an Israeli military spokeswoman said in Tel Aviv.

Medical workers said at least four people, including an infant, were killed. Hamouda's fate was not immediately known.

"The Beit Lahiya massacre was caused by an Israeli strike that targeted a Qassam leader," Hamas said in a statement, referring to its armed wing.

On Wednesday, Israel's Security Cabinet decided to give Egypt more time to try to broker a ceasefire under which militants would cease rocket salvoes and Israeli forces would halt Gaza operations.

The Security Cabinet said it had instructed the military to prepare for a possible broad operation in the Hamas-controlled territory should truce efforts fail.

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