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Blast levels house in Gaza, killing four
Updated: 2005-09-06 09:12

A mysterious blast after nightfall Monday leveled a building in Gaza City, killing four people and wounding at least 30, residents and hospital officials said. The violent Islamic Hamas group blamed Israel, but the Israeli military said it was not involved, AP reported.

The explosion came hours after Palestinian security forces got their first look at demolished Jewish settlements in Gaza, touring the area ahead of Israel's formal handover in mid-September. The joint tour by Palestinian commanders and Israeli military officials marked the first time Palestinian authorities were allowed into the settlements, which were evacuated two weeks ago.

The blast in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaiyeh destroyed a house where known Hamas members lived. Hamas charged that an Israeli missile hit the house, with a group spokesman, Munir al-Masri, accusing Israel of continuing its "dirty assassination policy, which gives us the right to respond and to defend ourselves."

Some residents said it was apparently a case of explosives in the house detonating prematurely as Hamas militants worked on a bomb.

Blast levels house in Gaza, killing four
Palestinians gather around the rubble of house following an explosion in Gaza City. [AFP]
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called the explosion "regrettable" and said "security is investigating the cause."

Israeli aircraft have often raided the neighborhood, targeting Palestinian militants, but the raids all but stopped after a cease-fire went into effect in February.

Also Monday, an Israeli official said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was planning to visit in November, another diplomatic dividend from Israel's Gaza pullout. However, Mubarak's spokesman said he had no such plans.

Israel is trying to revive low-level ties with Muslim nations that languished during more than four years of Israel-Palestinian conflict — as well as trying to establish new ones. Palestinians are unhappy with Israel's recent successes, however, and have urged Muslim nations to freeze ties with Israel until a final peace deal is reached.

Mubarak will travel to Israel in November to attend a service marking 10 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to make a formal announcement.

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