Israeli forces clash with Hamas gunmen
* Story Highlights
* NEW: 25 Hamas sites were attacked in the latest round of fighting, IDF
* More airstrikes hit northern and southern Gaza as Israel steps up campaign
* Former Hamas interior minister killed by Israeli artillery Thursday
* Israeli, Hamas envoys both in Cairo attending separate sets of talks
(CNN) -- Israeli ground forces battling Hamas militants in Gaza struck "at
least 20 armed gunmen" Friday, while five civilians were wounded when 15
Palestinian rockets were fired at Israeli communities, the Israeli military
In all, 25 Hamas sites were attacked in the latest round of fighting, the
Israel Defense Forces said.
Israel, which has been working to control weapons-smuggling through tunnels
between Gaza and Egypt, also reported that troops "uncovered a tunnel
containing weaponry and explosive devices" and the passageway was detonated.
It said troops fired at armed gunmen planting explosives and soldiers shot at
an approaching squad of gunmen. The Israeli military gave no estimate on
casualties in any of the incidents.
In Israel, Ashdod and Qiryat Gat were among the cities struck by the 15
Palestinian rockets and mortars. One of the five injured was classified as
seriously injured. VideoWatch latest report from Gaza »
Earlier in the day, Israeli airstrikes rattled northern and southern Gaza as
Israeli forces stepped up their campaign against the territory's Hamas leaders.
Streets were deserted after sundown Thursday in Rafah, along the Egyptian
border, as Israeli airstrikes shook buildings a kilometer (0.6 miles) from
their target. No running water was available Friday, and stocks of food were
running low, CNN Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman reported from
As day broke, residents could be seen returning to their damaged homes to
retrieve belongings before fleeing north. Some seemed exhausted, as frequent
explosions and the sound of Israeli warplanes overhead made sleep difficult.
But others remained defiant. A boy on a donkey cart could be seen shaking his
fist as an Israeli jet flew overhead.
Friday's strikes followed the heaviest shelling of the Palestinian territory
since Israel launched its military operation nearly three weeks ago.
Israel's push deep into Gaza City triggered heavy battles with Hamas militants,
and the third-ranking Hamas leader in the territory died in an Israeli
airstrike Thursday, the Islamic militant group reported. VideoWatch opinions
from the iReport community »
Other bombardments set the United Nations' main relief aid compound on fire and
damaged a Red Crescent hospital and a foreign journalists' building.
The Al-Quds Hospital, run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, was hit twice
Thursday -- the second time around 10:30 p.m., leaving the facility in flames
and forcing the staff and patients to evacuate onto the streets. The hospital
is located in the Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood, west of central Gaza City.
Meanwhile Hamas announced that Israeli forces killed Saeed Siam, one of its
leaders, along with his son and brother, and vowed to avenge his death.
Siam served as interior minister in the Hamas-led government before it was
dissolved in 2007. VideoWatch Saeed Siam's house after attack »
As it stepped up its military campaign, Israel Thursday dispatched senior
Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire proposal.
Gilad was continuing talks Friday in the Egyptian capital. A Hamas delegation
is also in Cairo, talking with leaders there who are trying to hammer out a
Israeli officials have said that it was likely the Jewish state would increase
its military incursion in Gaza as movement toward a cease-fire progressed.
Israel said it initiated the operation into Gaza -- which is controlled by
Hamas -- to stop rocket fire on its southern cities and towns. Thirteen
Israelis, including 10 soldiers, have died in the operation in Gaza and from
rocket strikes on southern Israel, according to the Israeli military. More than
1,000 Palestinians have been killed, including many civilians, Palestinian
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in the region as part of the diplomatic
effort to secure a truce. He met with Israeli officials on Thursday, and
condemned an Israeli strike that damaged the U.N. Relief and Works Agency's
compound in Gaza City that sparked a massive fire and injured three people.
VideoWatch Israeli response to strike on U.N. compound »
CNN's Kevin Flower and Michal Zippori in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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