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Israeli Seriously Wounded in Gaza Shooting; Troops Demolish Houses

Palestinians seriously wounded a Jewish settler in a shooting attack in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and witnesses said Israeli troops demolished six Palestinian-owned homes.

In the shooting, one or more attackers sneaked into the Kfar Darom settlement in Gaza and opened fire on an Israeli near greenhouses there, rescue and security officials said. The attackers got away, and troops were searching the area, the army said.

The settlements are built on land the Palestinians want for a future state and have been targeted frequently by militants during the past 28 months of fighting.

In the Gaza refugee camp of Rafah, Israeli tanks and bulldozers demolished five houses after forcing the residents to leave, witnesses said. Tanks shot machine gun fire as cover during the operation but no one was injured. The army said it was looking into the report.

Rafah is located on the Israeli-Egyptian border. Soldiers have demolished dozens of homes in the camp in more than two years of fighting, charging they served as cover for gunmen and weapons smugglers.

In the West Bank village of Beit Furik, troops demolished the two-story house of a Palestinian who killed an Israeli in a shooting attack last year before being shot dead by security forces, the army said. The seven residents of the house took some possessions with them before soldiers blew it up. The militant, Said Hanani, was a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militia linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

"The demolition of houses belonging to terrorists is a message to the suicide terrorists ... that there is a price for their actions," the army said.

Also Tuesday, the Palestinian finance minister, Salam Fayyad, confirmed that Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority almost $60 million in taxes collected from Palestinian laborers and businesses, the single largest payment since fighting began.

Of the amount, about $21 million is from money owed to the Palestinians that Israel has frozen during fighting, alleging that it is used to finance attacks. Israel is required to make the payments to the Palestinian Authority according to previous peace agreements.

"There is an expectation that Israel will make the payments regularly now," following a recent agreement, Fayyad said.

The violence has crippled the Palestinian economy, with tens of thousands of laborers unable to reach jobs in Israel and activity at businesses and government offices frozen under Israeli security closures and curfews.