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Reports: Six Palestinians Killed In Israeli Strikes In Gaza

At least six suspected Palestinian militants have been killed in separate Israeli strikes in the Hamas-administered Palestine territory of Gaza, media reports citing Israeli and Palestinian officials said on Thursday.

Palestinian officials said at least three people were killed by Israeli fire in northern Gaza on Thursday. Israeli military later confirmed the incident, saying that the strike targeted militants who were planting a bomb along the border with Gaza.

An Israeli air strike killed three Palestinian militants as they were reportedly trying to launch a rocket from central Gaza into southern Israel on Wednesday night. Israeli military said later that the targeted militants were making "final preparations" to fire the rockets when they were attacked.

The latest incidents follow a relative lull in Israel-Gaza fighting after Palestinian militant factions and Israeli authorities agreed to the Egypt-mediated truce agreement in March. Nevertheless, the informal ceasefire has been violated several times in recent weeks, with Gaza militants firing rockets into southern Israel as well as launching cross-border attacks.

Israel generally responds harshly to such attacks by launching air strikes on suspected militant targets in Gaza. The Jewish nation had imposed a blockade in Gaza after Hamas came to power in the Palestinian territory in June 2007, ousting secularist Fatah party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Recently, Israel eased its land blockade of the coastal strip, bowing to international pressures over a deadly Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May 2010. Israel, however, still continues with its naval blockade and insists that it will continue to ban or restrict shipments of materials that could have military uses.

Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist organization due to its refusal to give up violence and recognize Israel. They refuse to engage in negotiations with Hamas, prefer to channel their aid to the Palestinians through Fatah-led Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank.

Incidentally, Hamas was not involved in the direct peace negotiations that resumed in Washington in September 2010 between Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders after a two-year gap. The U.S.-brokered peace talks are presently deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend a construction freeze in the West Bank after its expiry on September 26.

Nevertheless, negotiators from Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have been holding a series of informal discussions since January 3 in Jordan's capital Amman, seeking ways to revive the currently stalled direct peace talks.

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