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5 Palestinian boys die in Gaza

Gaza explosion
A man holds up a destroyed bag and textbook at the scene of the explosion  

GAZA (CNN) -- Five Palestinian boys were killed Thursday near a U.N. elementary school in the Khan Younis refugee camp when one of them kicked an unexploded Israeli tank shell, Palestinian sources said.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said the boys were all related. They are identified as Muhammad al Astal, 14; Omar al Astal, 13; Muhammad al Astal, 12; Aniees al Astal, 12, and Akram al Astal, 6.

The 14-year-old and the 6-year-old are brothers. One of the 12-year-olds and the 13-year-old are brothers. All are cousins.

Palestinian security sources said that Israeli soldiers entered the area Wednesday and left unexploded tank shells. Those sources said one of the boys kicked an unexploded Israeli shell.

Israeli military sources said there was no firing by Israeli tanks Thursday in Khan Younis. Israel Radio reported the Israel Defense Forces tank shell had been fired several days earlier.

People in the area gathered and shouted for revenge against those responsible for the deaths. The Israeli army said it was investigating the incident.

Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Ziad Abu Zayyad, described the incident as "another tragic event in this episode of the daily tragedies of the Palestinian people.

"I think that this episode should stop. There must be a real effort to stop the sufferings of our people all over the Palestinian territories. These killings and destruction of houses and the assassinations have to stop," Zayyad said.

Israeli government spokesman Arie Mekel expressed regret for the deaths but suggested that the blast may have been caused by Palestinian explosives.

"I would like to express our grief. Anytime children are hurt, we certainly share the sorrow of the families and I would like to send our condolences," said Mekel. "As far as the details of the event, it is clear there was no Israeli shelling in that area today. It's also clear that there are no Israeli soldiers in Khan Younis. Therefore, we really have no idea what was the source of that explosion. There may be a number of explanations. It could also be Palestinian explosives."

In the West Bank, Palestinian security sources say special Israeli army units entered the village of Bir Zeit, near Ramallah, and took away six Palestinian students at Bir Zeit University.

Some of the students are affiliated with the militant Hamas political movement, and others have no political affiliation, sources say. Israel has not yet commented on this incident.

In the West Bank town of Al Azariya, Israeli army, police and border police forces shut down offices belonging to the Palestinian Authority, according to the IDF. The town is east of Jerusalem and in an area under Israeli security control.

The offices belong to intelligence and security forces. They were shut in order to prevent terrorist activity and illegal activity in the area of the town, the IDF said.


• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Palestinian Authority
• Israeli Government
• Israel Defense Forces

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