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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hamas Co-Founder Arrested, 8 Palestinians Die in a Raid

BUREIJ REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip -- Israeli troops raiding a Gaza refugee camp arrested a Hamas founder Monday, targeting the political leadership of the Islamic militant group for the first time in 29 months of fighting. Eight Palestinians, among them a pregnant woman, were killed in the clashes.

Troops also blew up four homes in the Bureij camp, including that of Hamas co-founder Mohammed Taha, 65, who was wounded in clashes with soldiers, the army said.

Taha's five sons -- all senior Hamas activists -- were also arrested. One son, Ayman, who was also wounded Monday, is the assistant of the top Hamas bombmaker and No. 1 on Israel's wanted list, Mohammed Deif, the army said.

The arrests signaled a turning point in Israel's dealings with Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in shootings and bombings. Since the outbreak of fighting in September 2000, Israel has killed scores of Hamas militants and rounded up hundreds of activists, but left the political leadership in Gaza alone.

Mohammed Taha founded Hamas in 1987, along with the group's spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, and three other senior clerics. Since then, Hamas has emerged as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's biggest rival.

Israel's offensive in Gaza began after a four-man tank crew was killed in a Hamas bombing Feb. 16. Since then, 44 Palestinians, including Hamas gunmen and at least eight civilians, have been killed in 14 Israeli raids in towns and camps.

Monday's incursion began at about 2 a.m. when jeeps and tanks backed by helicopters rolled into Bureij in central Gaza. Fierce fighting erupted, and hospital doctors said eight Palestinians were killed. Doctors said five were gunmen and three were civilians -- two boys, ages 14 and 16, and a 33-year-old woman who was in her ninth month of pregnancy.

The woman was killed when her house collapsed on her during the demolition of a nearby building, doctors and her family said.