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OPT: Israeli operations kill seven in Gaza, infighting kills four

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GAZA, May 17, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Seven Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza city on Thursday while four others were gunned down during inter-Palestinian fighting in various parts of the Gaza Strip.

As street battles between Hamas and Fatah movements began scaling down, the Israeli army stepped up operations in Gaza, launching several air strikes against Hamas targets.

The latest Israeli shelling has targeted a car belongs to Rafah municipality, killing at least three children. The aerial bombing took place near Sofa commercial crossing to the eastern side of Rafah, a town in southern Gaza Strip.

The witnesses said three of the slain were children of the driver and two bystanders were critically wounded, adding that the driver has stopped his pick-up car and entered a shop when the rocket hit his car.

Earlier, a member of Hamas' executive force was killed and 30 others wounded when an Israeli F16 plane dropped a bomb on a building used by Hamas police force in Gaza city.

Two fighters from Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades were also killed when their car was hit by an Israeli missile on al-Gala' street in Gaza city.

Minutes later, on the same street, a post used by bodyguards for Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Helal was targeted by the Israeli aircraft, leaving one guard dead.

The Israeli operations came after Hamas launched dozens of home- made rockets in southern Israel communities, violating an unofficial state of calmness between Israel and Gaza militant groups.

Meanwhile, residents of northern Gaza Strip said they saw Israeli tanks and military vehicles moving alongside the security fence that separates Israel from Gaza Strip.

The residents added the tanks and Israeli helicopters were firing random bullets from their heavy machine-guns.

Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Hamas military wing, threatened to respond to the Israeli attacks. "It seems the Israeli enemy did not understand the messages we sent by shelling the settlements near Gaza so we are ready to send more violent messages."

At noon, four Palestinians were killed during clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists. Three of the victims were civilians who died when a funeral for Hamas men came under fire in Rafah.

Hamas accused pro-Fatah Preventive Security Forces of firing at the funeral and of killing a fourth Hamas member in Gaza city after kidnapping him.

Hamas-Fatah fighting erupted four days ago. According to Health Ministry figures, at least 50 people were killed in the internal violence and 280 were injured.

In the evening, scenes of tensions began decreasing as security members removed roadblocks and opened the streets that surrounded the security compounds.

Fatah announced commitment to stop escalation and clashes with Hamas rivals. The recent violence was the worst since the two movements formed a unity government in March.