GAZA (Reuters) – Israeli shells killed five people and wounded several others in the Gaza Strip on Monday, including two members of the same family who were riding a donkey cart when they were hit, Palestinian witnesses said.
The dead included a 60-year-old woman and her 12-year-old grandson, medics said.
The three other Palestinians who were killed on Monday were standing outside an apartment building in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Beit Lahiya, where militants frequently fire rockets at Israel.
Israel has killed around 120 Palestinians in a nearly month-long offensive in Gaza to force militants to release a captured soldier and halt rocket fire on Israeli cities.
Germany said on Monday it was hopeful for progress on the release of abducted Corporal Gilad Shalit after its foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, visited the region.
“We have a certain hope that these efforts may lead to a result in the foreseeable future,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a government news conference, praising the role of Egypt and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel asked Germany to help free two other Israeli soldiers whose capture by Hizbollah guerrillas was one of the triggers of and Israeli military onslaught in Lebanon. German intelligence helped mediate a hostage exchange with Hizbollah in 2004.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said artillery rounds were fired on Monday at Palestinian militants launching Qassam rockets into Israel from heavily populated civilian areas in northern Gaza.
“We have distributed leaflets warning civilians to leave areas from where Qassam rockets are fired. The terror organizations purposely fire Qassam rockets at Israel from areas that are crowded with civilians,” the army spokeswoman said.
Earlier on Monday, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants in northern Gaza fired at least six rockets into Israel, two of them landed near the coastal city of Ashkelon. Nobody was hurt in those attacks.
The Islamic Jihad militant group said it fired the two rockets at Ashkelon to mark a visit to the region by “the Zionist Condoleezza Rice”, the U.S. secretary of state.
“Let Rice go to hell,” senior Hamas leader, Osama al-Muzaini, told Reuters.
Muzaini said Rice was coming to put political pressure on Arab leaders to back Israel in its war against Hizbollah.
Overnight, Israel bombed buildings the army said were being used by militants to make rockets. The army said it warned residents to leave the buildings before the air strikes to try to avoid civilian casualties.
One of the targeted warehouses was being used by Islamic Jihad to manufacture and store missiles and ammunition, the Israeli army said. Palestinian sources confirmed the owner of the house was an Islamic Jihad member.
Israel also hit a facility used by Hamas to make rockets, the army said.