updated 9/5/2005 3:59:25 PM ET 2005-09-05T19:59:25

An explosion destroyed a house after nightfall Monday in Gaza City, killing four people and injuring at least 30, residents and officials said. Three nearby buildings were reported on fire.

Residents said the wrecked home in the Shajaiyeh neighborhood near the border with Israel belonged to a well-known family of supporters of the Islamic militant group Hamas, but the Israeli military denied having anything to do with the blast.

During more than four years of Palestinian-Israeli violence, Israel often attacked suspected militants in the neighborhood, but such raids have been rare since a truce took effect in February. Bombs being constructed by extremists have sometimes exploded prematurely.

Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khoussa said security officers were investigating.

Earlier Monday, Palestinian security forces got their first look at Jewish settlements razed as part of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, touring the area ahead of the formal handover in mid-September.

In a nearby Palestinian town, dozens of unemployed protesters clashed with security forces who fired wildly into the air in the latest sign of growing chaos in Gaza ahead of the Israeli pullout.

A first look
The joint tour of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements by Palestinian commanders and Israeli military officials marked the first time that Palestinian officials have been allowed into the communities.

While security cooperation has been strong since Israel began clearing out of Gaza last month, Israel has refused to allow the Palestinians into the settlements due to security concerns. The Palestinians say access to the settlements and information about the remaining infrastructure is essential for planning Gaza’s future.

“They’ve been working with maps. Now they need to work on the ground,” said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

Palestinian security officials said commanders toured what is left of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements in southern and central Gaza. The commanders also were to receive aerial maps of the settlements.

Joint tours planned
Israeli military officials said that joint tours of the settlements were planned, but could not confirm whether they had begun.

The joint tours were the latest sign of progress as Israel prepares to complete the Gaza withdrawal after a 38-year occupation.

Israel last month removed all 8,500 settlers from Gaza and under an agreement with the Palestinians, recently completed the demolition of the vacant homes in the empty settlements. It expects to withdrew the last of its troops in Gaza around Sept. 15.

International mediator James Wolfensohn has been meeting with both sides to reach an agreement on unresolved issues, including the critical issue of who will control Gaza’s border with Egypt. The Palestinians say free movement across the border is essential to rebuilding Gaza. The Israelis are insisting on maintaining some control over entry, fearing militants will smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Mubarak denies trip plans
Meanwhile, an Israeli official said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak plans to visit Israel in November in his second trip to the Jewish state. Mubarak would attend ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make a formal announcement.

However, Mubarak’s spokesman Suleiman Awad told The Associated Press that the Egyptian president has no such plans.

“I can assure you that the president doesn’t have any plans to go anywhere outside Egypt until the end of this year,” Awad said. “He is quite busy with so many things, the presidential and legislative elections, and doesn’t have any plans to go anywhere outside Egypt.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments