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Israel hits Gaza with new strikes

At least 8 Palestinians dead, 16 wounded in Gaza attacks

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Palestinians dig through the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli airstrike Wednesday.

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- An Israeli airstrike killed at least seven Palestinians and wounded 15 others as Israeli troops moved into new areas of central Gaza early Wednesday, Palestinian sources said.

Two missiles were fired, according to Palestinian sources. One targeted a car, and the other killed seven and wounded 15 at a home belonging to a professor at the Islamic University, the sources said.

The Israeli army said they had targeted a house that was used as a hideout by several senior Hamas militants who were responsible for attacks, including the launching of Qassam rockets. The army said the group was planning an imminent attack.

Children were among the dead, The Associated Press and Reuters reported, quoting hospital officials.

Israel has been hammering Gaza with artillery and airstrikes in what it says is an effort to find army Cpl. Gilad Shalit, who was abducted June 25 in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants. Israel began its assault on Gaza three days later, saying it also wanted to deter Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

Earlier Wednesday, troops moved into central Gaza, killing one member of the Palestinian security forces and wounding another during a firefight, Palestinian sources said.

Israel confirmed its troops and armored vehicles were moving into new areas as part of operations in Gaza that began almost two weeks ago.

Late Tuesday, an Israeli drone fired three missiles at militants at an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade training camp as they were preparing to fire Qassam rockets into Israel from Beit Lahya, Israel Defense Forces said.

The incident occurred about 8 p.m. (1 p.m. ET). The rockets and the launcher were destroyed in the attack, but the militants escaped, IDF said. (Watch how the Gaza standoff affects "disengagement" -- 2:23)

The IDF initially said it was an aerial attack but later said it was not and refused to give further details.

Earlier Tuesday, a Palestinian militant was killed in an Israeli airstrike after a drone fired on a car in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, Palestinian security sources said. Two others were wounded.

The car was full of Qassam rockets and had been used earlier by militants firing rockets into Israel, according to Israeli military sources.

Shalit or nothing

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday that his country will keep up military operations in Gaza until the Palestinians stop firing rockets into Israel and militants free the 19-year-old Shalit.

"It will continue in places, in time, in different measures that will suit the purposes that were outlined," Olmert said at a Foreign Press Association conference in Jerusalem. (Watch Olmert explain why Israelis are in Gaza again -- 4:12)

In Damascus, Syria, Hamas political leader Khalid Meshaal said that the kidnapped soldier would not be freed until Israel begins to release some of the 10,000 Palestinians it holds in its prisons.

Israel has refused to negotiate for Shalit's release, saying a prisoner exchange would encourage more kidnappings.

"The Palestinian people will not accept the release of the soldier without the release of the prisoners," said the exiled Meshaal during a rare news conference. "This is not a Hamas position; it is the position of the Palestinian people."

Meshaal insists Shalit is a prisoner of war and is being treated humanely.

Meshaal said the international community "sees the picture only through the eye of a soldier," while ignoring the plights of thousands of Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons, including numerous politicians.

"The human aspect of the Palestinian suffering is being ignored," he said.

Earlier this week, Palestinian medical sources estimated that about 50 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 175 wounded since June 25. Israel maintains its operations have targeted militants.

In Monday's fighting in Gaza, at least seven Palestinians, three of them children, were killed, Palestinian security and medical sources said.

Appropriate force?

The Israeli prime minister rejected the European Union's suggestion that Israel is using disproportionate force to respond to rocket attacks that have continued since its military pullout from the territory in September.

Many of the rockets fired by Palestinians have landed harmlessly in the Negev Desert.

The U.N., while condemning Palestinian militants for kidnapping Shalit and firing rockets into Israel, has also condemned the Israeli response that has left civilians and children dead.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an immediate halt to the "disproportionate use of force by Israel" and several U.N. agencies released a joint statement Monday saying that Israeli actions "have brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society."

Israel remained steadfast in its decision to attack Gaza.

"When was the last time that the European Union condemned this shooting and suggested effective measures to stop it?" Olmert asked. He said Palestinian militants had fired rockets into Israel every day since the military pullout.

"The response was terror and terror and terror and terror again," Olmert said.

Three militant groups claimed responsibility for Shalit's abduction -- including the Hamas military wing Izzedine al Qassam, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam.

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