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Palestinian toddler killed by Gaza gunfire

Israeli soldiers climb into a house near where a Hamas militant was killed by an explosion.
Israeli soldiers climb into a house near where a Hamas militant was killed by an explosion.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A Palestinian toddler was killed Wednesday by gunfire in Gaza, Palestinian and Israeli officials reported. In an unrelated incident, a Hamas militant was killed in a West Bank explosion.

The 18-month-old boy died after being shot in the neck in Khan Yunis, a refugee camp near the Gaza-Egypt border, according to Palestinian medical sources.

Palestinian security sources said the boy was shot by fire from the nearby Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim. Israeli military sources said Palestinian gunmen fired on an army post near Neve Dekalim, and the Israeli soldiers returned fire.

In a statement published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the army described the toddler's shooting as "a very unfortunate incident, but the soldiers were forced to fire at the source of the shooting."

In the West Bank, Amin Manzalawi, a member of Izzedine al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, died in the early morning blast in a house in the village of Zawata near Nablus, according to Palestinian security sources.

Hamas sources labeled the death an assassination by Israel. Haaretz reported that an Israel Defense Forces source said Israeli armed forces were not involved in the incident.

Israeli Radio quoted Palestinian sources as saying the explosion was probably a "work accident," a term describing a bomb that went off prematurely.

Israel has launched numerous attacks targeting suspected militants during the 31-month intifada, killing many of them. A number of militants also have died in blasts caused by bombs exploding prematurely.

Israeli security sources said a patrol was in the village before the explosion but had left before the explosion. Haaretz reported that local firefighters said the blast was inside the house, which would appear to rule out a missile attack.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, is labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Izzedine al Qassam has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and attacks against the Israeli military.

Wednesday's violence came as many Israelis were celebrating their country's 55th Independence Day.

Israeli Radio reported Palestinians fired seven mortar shells at settlements in Gaza. One of the shells landed near Neve Dekalim, damaging a building.

Israeli troops ordered settlement residents to halt their celebration because of the shelling, but the activities were allowed to resume a few hours later. No one was injured.

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