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GAZA (Reuters) - An Israeli air strike killed seven Palestinian civilians on Thursday, including five children, in the largest death toll from a single attack since the start of a three-day offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Residents and medical officials said an Israeli air strike bombed at least two houses in a densely populated area near Khan Younis while residents were asleep.
Bodies were pulled out of rubble from three or four homes including neighboring structures, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said five of the dead were children. Another 16 people were also wounded in the attack, the ministry said.
The attack raised the death toll to 60 Palestinians, most of them civilians, since Tuesday, in Israel's offensive aimed at halting rocket fire at the Jewish state from coastal Gaza.
Israel says gunmen have fired more than 200 rockets at it during the campaign, striking deep into the country's heartland. The rockets have caused no serious casualties, but the barrages have paralyzed business in southern communities, with hundreds of thousands of people scrambling for shelter.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the strike and fatalities, which occurred shortly after Israeli media said 30 rockets had been launched in the space of an hour at southern Israeli towns and cities. No injuries were reported in those attacks.
Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills