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Israel strikes Hamas weapons labs

State of emergency declared in Gaza


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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The Israeli air force unleashed airstrikes on three Hamas weapons labs late Friday, just hours after launching strikes that Palestinian sources said killed seven militants.

The latest attacks were carried out in the Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City and in the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the targets were laboratories used by Hamas to make Qassam rockets, mortars and other devices.

Video showed a warehouse explode into flames and emergency crews and residents rushing to the scene. At least one person was shown being carried into a hospital.

In recent days Palestinian militants have fired the crudely made Qassam rockets at Israel. A rocket struck a home just north of Gaza Thursday, killing an Israeli woman and wounding another.

Earlier Friday, the Israeli military launched airstrikes at Hamas militants in Gaza and the West Bank.

The Israeli army said its airstrike in the West Bank targeted a car carrying two Hamas militants in the village of Wadi Shifra near Nablus. Palestinian security sources reported three Hamas militants were killed.

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization, has been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. The group's military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military.

In the Gaza incident, an Israeli airstrike on a van targeted four senior militants, who were known manufacturers of Qassam rockets and mortars, the Israeli army said. It said they were on their way to fire the weapons.

Palestinian security sources reported four Hamas militants were killed in the explosion, including a nephew of Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader in Gaza.

The Israeli army did not confirm any deaths.

The blast happened near a residence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but he wasn't there at the time, sources said.

Shortly after the strikes, Palestinian militants in northern Gaza fired three Qassam rockets into southern Israel, slightly wounding two people, according to the army.

The increased violence comes ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

She'll arrive in Israel next week with the aim of getting Israelis and Palestinians to follow through on preparations for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank.

Earlier this week, a Palestinian suicide bomber self-detonated in the Israeli town of Netanya, killing four Israeli women. That was followed by a deadly Palestinian rocket strike Thursday and retaliatory airstrikes by Israel.

In other violence Friday, Palestinian security sources said one civilian was killed and more than a dozen people wounded in the second day of clashes between security forces and Hamas supporters.

Members of Hamas reportedly hit a Palestinian Authority armored personal carrier Friday with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The escalating tension prompted Palestinian Interior and National Security Minister Nasr Yousef to declare a state of emergency in Gaza.

Gaza access closed

Earlier this week, Israel closed access to Gaza settlements by nonresidents ahead of Monday's planned march by activists to protest Sharon's disengagement plan.

In shutting down access, the army closed Kissufim Crossing -- the only entrance to the main Gaza settlement block. (Full story)

In a Thursday speech to Israeli police, Sharon called the Gaza pullout "the most important thing to the state of Israel."

Israel has controlled the 138-square-mile area of Gaza since capturing it from Egypt during the 1967 Six-Day War.

CNN's Talal Aburahma and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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