JERUSALEM -- Fighting in the Gaza Strip yesterday killed at least six Palestinians, including a militant commander, as Israeli forces continued a drive to stop cross-border rocket attacks into southern Israel.
Amid the clashes, a 57-year-old Palestinian woman blew herself up near Israeli soldiers, slightly injuring three. The suicide bomber was identified by family members as Fatma Al-Najar, a member of the military wing of the ruling Hamas movement.
The Israeli army said the woman approached troops near the farming town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip and set off the explosives after soldiers spotted her and hurled stun grenades to make her stop.
Female suicide bombers were a rarity in the first several years of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict but that has gradually changed. On Nov. 6, a woman blew herself up near Israeli soldiers during a raid in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, slightly injuring one.
"I received the news with happiness. We are all proud of our mother. She was always hoping to be a martyr," said one of Al-Najar's sons, Fuad al-Najar, 32, as well-wishers handed out sweets and tossed flowers outside the family's home in Jabaliya.
Elsewhere in Gaza, an Israeli airstrike killed Fayek abu al-Qumsan, the northern Gaza commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the groups firing homemade Kassam rockets over the border into southern Israel. He is the brother of one of the organization's founders, who was killed in an Israeli attack three years ago.
Palestinian militants clashed with Israeli troops, who were backed by tanks and aircraft, on the edges of several communities in the northern Gaza Strip. Also killed were gunmen belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A 22- year-old Palestinian civilian also died, according to medical workers.