updated 10/12/2006 11:39:10 PM ET 2006-10-13T03:39:10

An Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a building in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood after nightfall Thursday killed a Palestinian girl, her father and a militant, Palestinians said.

A helicopter raid earlier in another part of Gaza killed six people — five of them from the same family.

In Syria, exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal said Thursday that his group would not recognize Israel, but it wants to join a national unity government with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival Fatah faction. He also said Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government, was ready to swap captured Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit for Palestinian prisoners.

The latest Israeli airstrike targeted a house of a Hamas commander in the Shajaiyeh section of Gaza City, near the border with Israel.

Doctors said the dead girl was about 10 years old. The others killed were her father, a Hamas militant, and the brother of the owner of the targeted house. Seven people were wounded, including children, doctors said.

Palestinians said the customary warning to evacuate the house was not given by the army.

The Israeli military said the owner of the house, Ashraf Farawana, is a Hamas leader who was involved in attacks against Israel and supplying weapons to Hamas militants.

Pre-dawn raid
In a pre-dawn raid in southern Gaza, Israeli aircraft fired two missiles at a crowd of Palestinians, killing four Hamas militants and two other people, Palestinian security and hospital officials said.

The security officials said the incident occurred in the village of Abasan, east of Khan Younis, after Palestinians gathered outside a building where Israeli troops had taken up positions. Israeli armored vehicles had moved into the area and fired at some houses in the area, the security officials said.

Palestinian officials said five of the dead, including the militants and a 14-year-old boy, were members of the same family. An 18-year-old also was killed, though it was not immediately known whether he was a militant.

The army confirmed Israeli troops and aircraft had operated in the area overnight. It said troops had identified and hit seven Palestinians, all of them armed militants.

The army has been carrying out an offensive in the Gaza Strip since June, when militants linked to Hamas tunneled under the border fence into Israel and captured an Israeli soldier, who remains in captivity.

In a separate incident, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the home of a Hamas leader in the northern Gaza Strip. The army said the building was used to store weapons.

The army and Palestinian officials said the home owner was warned of the airstrike ahead of time, and the house was empty at the time of the airstrike.

During the offensive, Israel has carried out a series of airstrikes on suspected weapons storage facilities after ordering the occupants out of the buildings. Israel says the warnings are meant to avoid civilian casualties.

Stalled talks
Mashaal’s declaration came amid tension between Hamas and Abbas, who has advocated recognizing Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state on parts of the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas has refused, and talks over forming a power-sharing government have stalled over the issue.

“Hamas will not surrender ... and will not recognize Israel,” Mashaal said at a news conference in Damascus, where he lives in exile. “But Hamas does not want to be in power alone,” he added. “The real solution is the formation of a national unity government based on Palestinian principles.”

“A national unity government should take its orders from the Palestinians, not from America or Israel,” Mashaal said defiantly.

Abbas wrapped up a three-day visit in Gaza on Thursday without meeting any Hamas leaders there.

A new Palestinian government would have to deal with the captivity the Israeli soldier Shalit, who was seized by Hamas-linked militants on June 25.

“We have no interest of keeping the soldier at all. We are ready to release him...but in return for a deal, just like Hezbollah and just like Fatah who released (Israeli captives) in the past,” Mashaal said.

“If there is a swap deal, we are prepared... This is what we tell all Arab or non-Arab mediators,” he added. Arab countries like Qatar and Egypt have reportedly been trying to negotiate Shalit’s release.

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