The dead included a mother and four children in an attack on Sunday on their vehicle on an access road to a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, a settler spokesman said.

Aljazeera correspondent in Gaza said three Israeli soldiers were injured in the clashes with the Palestinian fighters who were shot dead.

The violence erupted as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud party cast votes on his plan to pull settlers and soldiers out of Gaza, home to 1.3 million Palestinians. 

Two Palestinian resistance groups claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, in a phone call to Aljazeera said they jointly attacked the settlers.

The attack near the entrance of the Gush Katif bloc of settlements was the deadliest on Israeli settlers in Gaza in months, and it was unclear how it would affect Sunday's vote.

Polls have shown voters are closely divided over the withdrawal plan. 

Boosting security

Sharon said his plan would boost Israel's security in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. His opponents accused him of caving in to Palestinian fighters. 

There had been a spike in Israeli occupation violence in Gaza since Sharon announced his intentions to exit the territory several months ago, with each side trying to claim victory before withdrawal. 

Israel had gone on high security alert on Sunday before the vote, dividing Gaza into three sections and restricting Palestinian travel.