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Israelis Kill 4 in Refugee Camp Raid

April 03, 2003|From Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli tanks backed by attack helicopters invaded a refugee camp near the Egyptian border late Wednesday, clashing with gunmen and killing four Palestinians, doctors said.

Earlier, Israeli troops rounded up hundreds of men in a sweep of the West Bank town of Tulkarem and demolished the home of a jailed Palestinian accused in a string of attacks.

In Gaza, residents said about 25 tanks and several bulldozers entered the refugee camp next to the town of Rafah. Palestinian gunmen shot at the soldiers, and an Apache helicopter fired back, killing a Palestinian. Three others died in exchanges of fire, and seven were wounded in the violence, doctors said.

The Israeli military would say only that an operation was in progress. Israel Radio reported that four Israeli soldiers were wounded when a bomb went off under a tank.

The area is the scene of daily clashes between armed Palestinians and Israeli soldiers, and Israel often sends in bulldozers to destroy buildings used for cover by gunmen.

The arrested men in Tulkarem were held in a barbed wire enclosure for several hours and then all but seven were released. An additional four suspected militants, including a Hamas member accused of planning shooting attacks, were arrested elsewhere in the West Bank.

The military said that during the Tulkarem operation, troops caught a wanted militant trying to slip out of the town's refugee camp disguised in women's clothing.

The military operations came as Mahmoud Abbas, the recently named Palestinian prime minister, met with political leaders in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to discuss the formation of his new Cabinet, expected later this month.

Abbas also has met in recent days with leaders of the Hamas militant group, based in Gaza. Abbas has been trying to persuade Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad to end, at least for a period, attacks against Israelis.

On Wednesday, Israeli troops arrested four men in the West Bank town of Hebron. Two allegedly belonged to Hamas, while the other two belonged to Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing Sunday in the coastal town of Netanya. The attack wounded dozens of Israelis.

Soldiers on Wednesday also demolished the home of Omar Abu Sneineh in Hebron, a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah party. He was jailed three months ago after being accused in bomb attacks and shootings, the army said.

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