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Thousands peacefully protest Israeli strikes

Israel says attacks were part of campaign to round up militants

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hamas told its followers to take to the streets of Gaza City on Thursday after the Israeli military reportedly killed six people during military strikes in the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians peacefully heeded the call.

Hamas, which won a ruling majority of the Palestinian parliament in elections last month, had the man who has been tapped to be the next Palestinian prime minister on hand to lead the demonstrations.

Ismail Haniyeh led the throngs to the Palestinian parliament to voice opposition to the Israeli military attack. The demonstration ended without incident.

Hamas, which refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel's right to exist, is considered a terrorist organizations by the U.S., European Union and Israel.

In three separate strikes, the military targeted "terrorist infrastructures" in and around Nablus, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The IDF operations were the largest undertaken by Israel in the West Bank since Hamas won the elections January 25.

Two Palestinians were killed after throwing firebombs at Israeli forces operating in the Balata refugee camp, on the outskirts of Nablus, the IDF said.

Another Palestinian died in a hospital after being shot by Israeli troops, Palestinian medical sources said. Israeli military sources said the man was armed, prompting soldiers to open fire on him.

In another operation, three wanted militants were killed when Israeli forces surrounded a house and Palestinian gunmen fired at them, wounding two soldiers, the IDF said. Israeli forces fired back, killing the three men.

Israel began its current campaign Saturday, canvassing Nablus looking for militants suspected of planning suicide bombings and other attacks, according to an Israeli army spokeswoman.

The main targets of the raids have been Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which carried out two suicide bombings in Israel in recent months, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an army commander said Tuesday.

Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a military offshoot of the Fatah movement that has attacked military and civilian targets in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel and the United States consider both to be terrorist organizations.

Separately, the IDF said it fired artillery shells into areas of northern Gaza after five Qassam rockets were fired into Israel. The rockets and artillery shells caused no damage or injuries.

CNN's Avivit Dalgoshen and Ari Bell contributed to this report.

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