Irishwomen Treasa Ní Cheannabháin and her daughter Naisirin El Safty have been allowed to cross the border from Gaza into Egypt.

Treasa ni Cheannabhain and her daughter Naisrin were allowed out of Gaza after diplomats from the Department of Foreign Affairs held talks with Egyptian counterparts in Cairo and Dublin.

Ms Ní Cheannabháin, aged 56 and from Galway, entered Gaza illegally along with her daughter Naisirín Elsafty, aged 19, and her niece Seham Eshotty, aged 26, in order to undertake a relief mission on behalf of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Ms Elsafty and Ms Eshotty were granted safe passage across the Egyptian border four hours before Ms Ní Cheannabháin.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said 'I welcome the fact that both women have been allowed passage from Gaza. I would like to thank my officials in both Dublin and the Middle East for the efforts they have made to secure their safe passage. However, I would like to stress again that Irish citizens should heed travel advice and warnings issued by my Department. We specificially urged citizens not to travel to Gaza but this advice was apparently ignored. I am relieved that there has been a satisfactory outcome.'

Israeli raids in Gaza

Meanwhile Hamas has rejected the offer from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to help negotiate a ceasefire, as Israel continued to pound Gaza today, killing seven people.

Hamas called the offer a 'blackmail attempt against the Palestinian people whom [Mr Abbas] has left to be massacred'.

Escalating violence has now seen 19 Palestinians, mostly  militants, killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza and several Israelis,  including two young children, wounded by militant rocket attacks  during the past week.

President Abbas offered to help broker a ceasefire, his spokesman said, amid fears that the violence could undermine recently revived peace  talks.

President Abbas has repeatedly condemned both Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli strikes on Gaza, but he has little if any authority over the  territory from which his security forces were ousted by Hamas in June 2007.

In the first raid today, four militants were killed near Jabaliya in a raid by a pilotless drone.

Three of the gunmen belonged to the armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, while the affiliation of the fourth militant was not immediately clear.

A second raid saw two militants killed near Tuffah north of Gaza City, while four others were wounded, two of them seriously.

Hamas said Israeli ground forces were also operating in the Tuffah sector.

A teacher was also killed when an Israeli tank shell hit a high school in the northern town of Beit Hanun, wounding three students.

The latest deaths bring to 6,128 the number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

The strikes today and yesterday by Israeli aircraft follow renewed rocket fire against southern Israel, wounding at least three people.

Gaza militants launched at least seven rockets at Israel yesterday.

Egypt threatens border-crossers

Meanwhile Egypt says it will no longer tolerate Palestinians infiltrating the country from the Gaza Strip and threatened to break the legs of anyone crossing the Rafah border illegally.

'Anyone who breaches the border will have their legs broken,' Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit was quoted as saying.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians crossed freely into Egypt after Islamist militants from Hamas blew apart border barriers late last month.

Mr Abul Gheit said Egypt had allowed the Palestinians to flood across the border for humanitarian reasons only.

He blamed Israel for the situation in Gaza and reproached Hamas for firing rockets into Israel,  describing the standoff as a 'laughable caricature.'