GAZA - Palestinian militants staged an attack near an Israeli army base in the central Gaza Strip, witnesses and radios said, and Israeli rescue services said five people were killed and 10 wounded in the incident.

The Israeli Army said the bombing near the Karni crossing point between Israel and Gaza appeared to be the work of two suicide bombers.

Israel Radio said a huge bomb of up to 130kg had been detonated at the site, while rescue services reported militants were firing mortar rounds at the site shortly after the explosion and that Israeli troops exchanged fire with the attackers.

Israeli medics said they were treating five wounded and had moved four to hospital, but had difficulty reaching other casualties due to gunfire.

Palestinian security said Palestinian workers were being kept on the Palestinian side of the crossing. Their condition was unclear.

The attack came amid an upsurge in violence between Israelis and militants defying calls by newly elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, to stop the violence of a four-year-old uprising.

Three Palestinian militant groups claimed joint responsibility for the attack, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - a faction of Abbas' Fatah movement - Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Abu Abir, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees told Reuters "the attack was a continuation of resistance" and a response to Israel's killing of a West Bank militant and other Palestinians in military raids this week.

He said it was "further proof that the enemy (Israel) will leave the Gaza Strip under fire from the strikes of the Palestinian resistance," referring to Israel's plan to evacuate Jewish settlers from Gaza this year.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that he would respond severely to any attempts to shoot at Israelis during the withdrawal.

- REUTERS