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Four killed in Israeli incursion


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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Three Palestinian men and a boy were killed and 44 others wounded Thursday during an incursion by 12 Israeli armored vehicles into the central Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, Palestinian sources told CNN.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was conducting a security operation and had discovered a tunnel, often used for smuggling weapons, under a residential building.

The IDF said troops then were attacked by Molotov cocktails and an explosive device. The army returned fire, the IDF said.

One of the dead was identified as Muhammad Barakeh, 19, by Palestinian sources said. Palestinian medical officials identified the other victims as Muhammad Abu Masabe, 14; Ahmed Abu Shwaish, 19, and Shadi Abu Grab, 18.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces in Gaza on Wednesday night blew up two buildings in the Khan Yunis refugee camp the military said were being used to stage attacks in Israel.

Khan Yunis Mayor Usama al-Fara said Israeli forces demolished two five-story apartment buildings in the refugee camp, leaving around 300 people homeless.

One day earlier, Israeli troops in the West Bank demolished the Hebron home of Ahmed Kawasme, one of two Hamas suicide bombers in an attack on two buses in Beer Sheva in southern Israel.

Those bombs Tuesday killed 16 people and wounded 94 others. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, who has condemned the suicide bombings, called the Israeli military's action in Khan Yunis a step in the wrong direction.

"The Palestinian Authority condemns this Israeli incursion in Khan Yunis that rendered 40 Palestinian families homeless," Erakat said. "Such actions will not bring peace and end the bloodshed. They will only exacerbate an already tense and complex reality."

In the meantime, Israel and the Palestinians said a hunger strike staged by Palestinian inmates for more than three weeks ended Thursday afternoon at all Israel Prison Service facilities -- but both sides differ on what, if any, concessions were made to the inmates.

"The hunger strike ended without any negotiations," an IPS spokesman said, but he noted that humanitarian issues unrelated to security would be discussed with inmates soon.

"IPS medical staff will -- in the coming days -- continue to monitor the health of terrorist prisoners who participated in the hunger strike," the spokesman said.

Palestinian Authority Minister for Prisoner Affairs Hisham Abdel-Razek also confirmed that the strike ended, and said prisoners received 90 percent of their demands from Israel.

Among those demands were the ending of strip searches, allowing inmates to talk on the phone with families, taking away glass partitions between relatives and prisoners, and ending solitary confinement.

About 4,000 prisoners began the strike August 15. Along with demands for improvements in living conditions, they protested Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.


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