Explosion Rocks Gaza Refugee Camp

An Israeli aircraft fired a missile at Palestinian gunmen in the Jebaliya refugee camp (search) after nightfall Sunday, killing one and wounding seven, in the second airstrike of the day.

Palestinian security officials said the target of the missile strike was a group of gunmen organizing to attack Israeli forces. They identified the dead man as a 20-year-old activist of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group with ties to Yasser Arafat's (search) Fatah movement.

Israeli military sources said the second airstrike was aimed at Palestinians planting a bomb.

Large numbers of Israeli troops and tanks have been operating in northern Gaza for nearly two weeks, trying to stop militants from firing rockets at nearby Israeli towns.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) has pledged to withdraw from Gaza next year, but he faces stiff resistance from the far-right opposition and from some within his own party.

On Monday, parliament reconvenes from summer recess in what could be a stormy session. Some commentators predict Sharon's minority government could be forced from office.

The main opposition Labor party has so far backed Sharon on key votes over his pullout plan, but Labor's Dalia Itzik said Sunday evening the party's continued support should not be taken for granted.

"There is no longer an automatic safety net," she told Channel Two television.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a home near a Hamas stronghold in the Jebaliya refugee camp, killing one civilian and wounding eight, including a young girl, hospital officials said.

It was not clear why the army targeted the house, which was not far from the Kholfa Mosque, a Hamas power base. The army did not comment.

The strike caused extensive damage to nearby homes and stores, witnesses said.

Also, a Palestinian gunman wounded earlier in the army's offensive died in the hospital, officials said.

Since the beginning of the latest Israeli operation, 97 Palestinians have been killed. Almost half were civilians, and 18 were age 16 and under, Palestinian officials said.

Also in Jebaliya, an Israeli soldier was slightly wounded by an anti-tank missile fired by Palestinians, the military said.

The offensive began Sept. 29 and was expanded after militants launched a homemade rocket into the Israeli town of Sderot, killing two children, later that day. The raid was intended to stop militants from launching the rockets into Israel, though the attacks have continued.

Army Radio reported Sunday that an army officer had been arrested on suspicion of selling forged entry permits to Palestinians. The report did not identify the lieutenant colonel but said he could be charged with endangering state security.

The military said the man was a reservist and referred questions to the police, who could not immediately be reached.

Israel's government tightly controls the entry of Palestinians into Israel with roadblocks, checkpoints and a system of work permits, saying restrictions are needed to stop Palestinian bombers and other attackers from getting in.

Even Palestinians with work permits — about 15,000 — are banned from entering Israel now. Israel imposed a total closure a month ago, at the beginning of the Jewish holiday season.

The military said Sunday the ban would remain in effect until further notice, though the last holiday ended last week.