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Three reportedly killed in Gaza; Israeli military operation on hold

  • Story Highlights
  • Israeli strikes kill 6-year-old girl, 60-year-old man, Palestinian sources say
  • Israel preparing for strikes in "unfortunate event" truce talks fail, spokesman says
  • Egypt trying to broker truce between Israelis and Gaza's Hamas leaders
  • Israel: Militants have launched more mortars, rockets this year than in all of 2007
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An Israeli military operation in Gaza killed three people Wednesday, including two civilians, Palestinian medical sources said; a broader Israeli operation is on hold pending the result of truce talks.

The Israeli military said it had no information regarding the casualties, but Mark Regev, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, said the Israeli Security Cabinet "decided to support the Egyptian efforts to achieve calm in the south and end the daily targeting of Israeli civilians by the terrorists in Gaza."

However, the Israeli military has been instructed to "continue preparations in the unfortunate event that the Egyptian trail should prove unsuccessful," Regev said in a statement.

Egypt has been trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and Gaza's Hamas leaders because Israel will not directly negotiate with the hard-line Islamic group.

The U.S. and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist outfit because it does not recognize the Jewish state's right to exist. The group also refuses to renounce terrorism.

Militants in Gaza have launched more than 2,300 mortars and rockets since the start of 2008, while 2,000 were fired in all of 2007, according to the Israeli military.

While most of the rockets and mortars land harmlessly in rural areas or southern Israel's Negev Desert, some attacks result in damage and casualties. The attacks have killed three Israelis in the last month.

The Israeli military responds to the attacks by carrying out airstrikes and ground operations targeting militants in Gaza. The reprisals often lead to civilian casualties, inflaming the Palestinian leadership.

A 6-year-old girl and a militant were killed by an Israeli tank shell early Wednesday near the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian medical and Hamas sources said.

The Israeli military said it was not aware a child was killed, a spokeswoman said. The military fired at militants, who had been launching mortars from Gaza into Israel, she said.

Two mortars landed in Nir Oz kibbutz hours later, hitting a factory targeted last week where an Israeli man was killed. Video Watch how factories are on the front lines »

One man was slightly injured in Wednesday's mortar attack.

An Israeli airstrike Wednesday also killed a 60-year-old Palestinian man in northern Gaza, Palestinian medical sources said. The Israeli military confirmed it hit a rocket-launching site in northern Gaza but said it had no details on any casualties.

Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which seized the Palestinian territory last year after routing security forces belonging to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.

Abbas was forced to dissolve the Fatah-Hamas unity government. Fatah's power base is anchored in the West Bank, Hamas' in Gaza.

Representatives from the factions met in Senegal this week for talks aimed at restoring the yearlong political and territorial split.

Last week, Abbas called for "national unity" talks with Hamas with the goal of producing elections for the Palestinians, who elected a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government in a U.S.-backed vote in 2006.

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Meanwhile, Abbas' Western-backed government is working toward a peace agreement with Israel.

The Bush administration has said it wants the two sides to reach an agreement by the end of the year.

CNN's Shira Medding contributed to this report.

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