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Gun Battles, Bombings Break Lull in Israel

Mideast: Renewed violence rages from the Lebanese border to the southern Gaza Strip.

April 15, 2001|From Times Wire Services

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Israeli troops and Palestinians fought fierce gun battles Saturday after Israeli tanks entered Palestinian-controlled territory in the Gaza Strip for the second time in a week.

On the Israeli-Lebanese border, Hezbollah guerrillas fired missiles at an Israeli tank, killing a soldier and drawing retaliatory air raids and artillery barrages on suspected militia hide-outs in southern Lebanon.

In Kfar Saba, a suburb of Tel Aviv, two pipe bombs, which police suspect were placed by Palestinian guerrillas, exploded, seriously wounding one person, police said. The injured man was an Arab, but it was not immediately clear if he was connected to the blast, a rescue services spokesman said.

And in Gaza City, an activist of the radical Hamas, Mohammed Nassar, 25, was killed and five others were injured when a bomb he was preparing went off, a senior Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity. The injured Palestinians included other Hamas members and a 7-year-old boy, the official said.

The bloodshed signaled an end to a brief lull in 6 1/2 months of fighting. The lull had followed a U.S.-sponsored meeting between security chiefs from the two sides Wednesday. The security chiefs are scheduled to meet again under U.S. auspices Monday.

Pushing 100 yards into a Palestinian-controlled zone around a refugee camp in Rafah in southern Gaza, two Israeli army bulldozers backed by three tanks demolished a Palestinian military intelligence headquarters and 15 houses.

Heavy fighting ensued, and a hospital director said at least 35 Palestinians were wounded, including a 16-year-old whose leg was blown off by a tank shell. No Israeli casualties were reported.

The Israeli army said its soldiers in the Rafah area, next to the Egyptian border, had twice come under hand grenade attack earlier in the day but suffered no casualties.

Palestinian witnesses said residents of the refugee camp, including children, threw stones at the tanks before gunmen and Palestinian police arrived to confront the Israelis.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army made its first major ground assault on a Palestinian-controlled area, demolishing homes at a refugee camp in the town of Khan Yunis that it said were being used by gunmen.

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