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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 06:06 GMT 07:06 UK
West Bank gunmen kill five settlers
Troops on the outskirts of Ramallah
Troops have moved into the main West Bank towns
Armed Palestinians have killed five Jewish settlers, including a mother and three of her children, in a raid on a settlement near the West Bank town of Nablus.

The two gunmen who carried out the raid - the second on the Itamar settlement in less than a month - were both shot dead by the security forces.

Three Palestinians were reported killed later near the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza, when Israeli soldiers fired on a man who had thrown a grenade, killing the attacker and two workers.

Map of six Palestinian towns raided by Israeli forces
Israeli tanks and troops rolled into Nablus overnight after the Itamar attack, Palestinian witnesses said.

Israeli forces were earlier sent into other major Palestinian West Bank towns in response to two deadly suicide bombings in Jerusalem this week that killed 26 Israelis.

Those attacks prompted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to press ahead with a new policy of seizing Palestinian land in retaliation.

Night attack

The militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the Itamar attack.

The gunmen infiltrated the settlement after nightfall. They burst into a house, opening fire at the family inside and then shooting in all directions.

We're in the valley and there aren't any fences here or anything

Itamar resident

The family killed was named as Rachel Shabo, 40, and her sons Neria, 16, Zavi, 12, and Avishai, 5. A security guard also died in the attack.

The first gunman was killed as troops stormed the house. The other jumped out of a window and escaped.

He was later tracked to another house where he was shot dead after a short siege.

Itamar resident Rinat Cabara told Israeli television: "I was hanging laundry outside and I heard shots being fired so I ran home."

"When I entered I saw my husband with his gun near the window... We're in the valley and there aren't any fences here or anything."

Itamar was the scene of another attack on 28 May in which four Jewish students at an Orthodox seminary were shot dead.

Israeli call-up

There has been a partial call-up of Israeli reserve troops to allow the army to progressively reoccupy parts of the West Bank.

Israeli soldier in an armoured personnel carrier during incursion into Hebron
Israeli troops had only recently pulled out of Palestinian towns
They will stay there until the suicide attacks are stopped, said Prime Minister Sharon, who convened an emergency cabinet meeting late on Thursday as the Itamar raid unfolded.

The Israeli call-up is not on the scale of Operation Defensive Shield five weeks ago, when 30,000 part-time soldiers were put back into uniform.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Jerusalem says one reason for that is that the Israeli cabinet is deeply divided over whether it is possible or desirable for the army to reoccupy Palestinian towns.

The latest suicide bombings prompted Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to call for an immediate halt to such attacks.

But Nafez Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, told Reuters news agency: "We are in a process of legitimate self-defence.

"Israel is the one that kills innocent children and women. This war has been imposed on us by Israel."

US President George W Bush has postponed a long-awaited speech on the Middle East peace process because of the upsurge in Israeli casualties.

Israeli troops are now occupying most major West Bank towns with tanks, backed up by helicopters.

Israeli helicopters and warplanes have also pounded buildings in the Gaza Strip, wounding a number of Palestinians.

Palestinian sources say about 1,500 people have been arrested.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Orla Guerin
"On both sides the situation is deteriorating"
The BBC's Paul Wood reports from Jerusalem
"The army is telling people to stay in their houses and turn the lights off"

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20 Jun 02 | Americas
19 Jun 02 | Middle East
18 Jun 02 | Middle East
18 Jun 02 | Middle East
17 Jun 02 | Middle East
02 Dec 01 | profiles
18 Jun 02 | Middle East
11 Jun 02 | Middle East
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