Israeli soldiers targeted by 68-year-old suicide bomber

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The Independent Online

A woman suicide bomber said by relatives to be 68 years old blew herself up close to Israeli troops during a day of bloodshed in Gaza that left at least seven Palestinians dead.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came as Israeli forces stepped up military operations with the stated intention of curbing Qassam rocket attacks, seven of which were launched into Israeli communities yesterday, causing no injuries. Two civilians have been killed by the rockets in the past week.

Three soldiers were slightly injured by the bomb after troops fired a stun grenade at her, the Israeli Army said. The woman then detonated her bomb.

Hamas named her as Fatma An-Najar and said she was 57. But at her home in Jabliya, a woman claiming to be the bomber's eldest daughter said she was older. Fatheya, 52, said: "They [the Israelis] destroyed her house, they killed her grandson, my son. Another grandson is in a wheelchair with an amputated leg. She and I, we went to the mosque. We were looking for martyrdom."

Six other Palestinians, including at least five gunmen, were killed in three ground and air attacks after troops came under fire from anti-tank missiles earlier in the day. Four Israeli soldiers were injured in the attack. Four Palestinians, including a 34-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy, were killed on Wednesday.

Hopes of any political breakthrough appeared last night to rest with a visit to Cairo by Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader. Earlier hopes of a Gaza ceasefire ­ to which the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, had reported that Hamas were willing to sign up ­ failed to materialise.

Meanwhile Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas and Fatah, offered to stop firing rockets into Israel in exchange for a cessation of attacks on Gaza and the West Bank. It is the first time that all Palestinian factions and militant groups have agreed a proposal. It will be put to Israel.

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