Israeli airstrike kills four in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike killed four Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza Strip early today, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.

An Israeli airstrike killed four Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza Strip early today, Palestinian witnesses and officials said.

Moaiya Hassanain, of the Gaza Health Ministry, said nine others were wounded in the strike, including two who were in critical condition.

Hamas officials said the dead included two of its men and two from another militant group who were on a night patrol east of Khan Younis, a town in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said it carried out the strike after identifying armed men near its border with Gaza.

Israel carries out regular military operations in Gaza, targeting militants launching almost daily rocket barrages into Israel.

Israel began reducing fuel supplies to Gaza last month in response to ongoing rocket fire from Palestinian militants, and planned to begin scaling back electricity from tomorrow.

Israel's Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Israeli government can continue cutting fuel supplies to residents of Gaza but must postpone an electricity cut planned for this weekend.

The ruling was in response to a legal challenge from a coalition of human rights groups that claims the policy constitutes collective punishment.

Israel is tightening sanctions on Hamas-controlled Gaza, while resuming peace negotiations with the moderate Palestinian government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has ruled only the West Bank since his forces in Gaza were routed by Hamas.

This week, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met at a US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, and officially announced that negotiations would resume after a violent seven-year hiatus.

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