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Israeli forces clash with Hamas gunmen

    * Story Highlights
    * NEW: 25 Hamas sites were attacked in the latest round of fighting, IDF 
says
    * 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 
said.

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 
Rafah.

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 
temporary truce.

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 
medics said.

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.

All AboutHamas • Israel • Gaza • Ban Ki-moon
 
 
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Hamas
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Hamas
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Watch Saeed Siam's house after attack »
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Israel
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Israel
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Watch Israeli response to strike on U.N. compound »
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Hamas
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Hamas
Israel
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Gaza
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Ban Ki-moon
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Ban_Ki_moon

 
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