New violence seen in Gaza

The raid follows the first major suicide bombing in Israel in nearly six months.

In another development elsewhere in Gaza, Israeli soldiers also blew up two apartment blocks, leaving many Palestinians homeless.

The incursion into the Deir el-Balah refugee camp triggered the worst violence in Gaza in weeks.

Israeli helicopters fired warning shots and soldiers shot at Palestinians firing anti-tank rockets and hurling petrol bombs.

A military spokesman said the clashes erupted after troops unearthed a tunnel near a Jewish settlement.

Palestinian medics said four Palestinians were killed, including a 14-year-old, his 19-year-old brother and two other 19-year-olds. They said 41 people were wounded.

Israeli sources said three Palestinians were shot.

In an overnight raid in nearby Khan Younis refugee camp, soldiers blew up twin five-storey buildings which Israel said Palestinian militants were using to attack soldiers and Jewish settlers.

Six Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers were wounded in the raid.

The operation followed Israeli threats to step up strikes on militants after suicide bombings on two buses claimed by Hamas militants killed 16 people on Tuesday in the city of Beer Sheva.

Israeli troops surrounded 10 apartment buildings overlooking the Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim and ordered all 150 families to evacuate.

“The children were crying and screaming … The army did not give us a chance to take anything, they said ‘Just go’,” said Ali Khalaf-Allah, a tenant from one of the buildings.

In Gaza City, a Palestinian minister announced that Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails had ended an 18-day hunger strike “after 90 per cent of their demands” for better conditions were met.

“We announced to you that all prisoners in all prisons have ended today their open hunger strike,” said Hisham Abdel-Razek, the minister for prisoner affairs, as gunmen fired shots into the air and proclaimed the strike a victory.

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