The latest victim on Tuesday was a 24-year-old who Israeli troops shot dead, claiming he was armed.

 

Another 25 people were injured in the aerial attacks early on Tuesday, Palestinian medical sources told Aljazeera's correspondent.

 

Eight of those are in critical condition.

 

In the first attack, three Palestinians were killed when Israeli helicopter gunships fired three missiles at the Qishta neighbourhood, said Aljazeera correspondent in Gaza Samir Abu Shamala.

Israeli occupation forces claimed the victims were members of President Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement and had been armed when the missile was launched at them.

However, residents who dug their bodies out of the rubble said the three had posed no threat to anyone. 

Israeli tanks and infantry are pouring into Rafah in defiance of international outcries, drawing UN and European Union criticism over concern it could make thousands of Palestinians homeless. 

Israel has threatened to carry out a systematic destruction of homes in the impoverished area. 

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saib Uraiqat said Israel was carrying out war crimes after the latest killings in Rafah.
 
Second attack

In another attack shortly after dawn, helicopters killed another five civilians near Bilal Bin Rabah mosque in Tal al-Sultan district where they had gathered to pray. The mosque was set ablaze.

Toll continues to steadily mount

The identities of the dead were not immediately known, but all were men in their 20's and 30's.

In the Badr neighbourhood, occupation forces stormed homes and took positions on rooftops.

 

"They are shooting whoever moves in the area," said correspondent Abu Shamala, leaving three Palestinians dead.

 

Another Palestinian was killed in street fighting.

 

Medical sources also said Israeli forces detained ambulances trying to move the wounded from Tal al-Sultan district.

   

An Israeli military official said "an operation is underway in Rafah at the moment", but declined to give details, other than that "there will be arrests at first and later on, demolitions of homes".

   

Israeli troops earlier sealed Rafah off from the rest of the occupied Gaza Strip in a search for resistance fighters and possible smuggling tunnels.