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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 May, 2004, 20:38 GMT 21:38 UK
Israel destroys Palestinian homes
A Palestinian girl among the rubble of a destroyed home, Rafah
Hundreds are thought to have been deprived of their homes
Israeli troops have withdrawn from a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip after bulldozing dozens of homes.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said the Israelis destroyed 88 buildings in Rafah, home to more than 200 families.

But Palestinians won a small victory when Israel's Supreme Court imposed a temporary ban on more demolitions.

The Israeli military said it only destroyed homes used by Palestinian militants to launch attacks.

The temporary ban on further demolitions was issued after an injunction was sought by a Palestinian rights group. Judges were due to discuss the issue on Sunday.

In Israel, meanwhile, tens of thousands have attended a rally calling for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Earlier the Israelis also carried out a series of missile attacks in Gaza against the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad.

In the Rafah refugee camp, a missile hit the home of senior Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed Sheikh Khalil. Israeli missiles also hit buildings used by the group in Gaza City.

There were no reports of deaths in either incident, but at least 14 people were injured.

Israelis demonstrate

The latest Israeli strikes come at the end of a week in which 13 Israeli soldiers were killed in three separate ambushes in Gaza. Clashes also left about 30 Palestinians dead.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for two of the attacks on Israeli armoured vehicles.

TOLL FROM LATEST VIOLENCE
14 May - Two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian killed in the Rafah refugee camp
13 May - 12 Palestinians reported dead in Israeli raids on Rafah refugee camp
12 May - Five Israeli soldiers killed by a rocket fired by Palestinian gunmen near Rafah
11-12 May - 14 Palestinians killed during Israeli incursion in Gaza City
11 May - Six Israeli soldiers killed by an anti-tank bomb in Gaza City
On Saturday night, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to demonstrate in favour of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for Israel to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

The prime minister's ruling Likud party has rejected the proposals, but opinion polls have shown that most Israelis support the plan.

The demonstration, organised by the opposition Labour Party and a coalition of peace groups, began with a moment of silence for the 13 dead Israeli soldiers.

"I'm here because we can't take it anymore," said Tali Rosen, 34. "What got me out of the house was the deaths of the soldiers."

The rally organisers claimed it was one of the largest protests of its kind since the demonstrations against Israel's invasion of Lebanon in the 1980s.

'Catastrophe'

In Rafah, one Palestinian woman whose home was destroyed by Israeli troops told the BBC that nobody had shot from it at the soldiers and there had been no warning before the bulldozers came.

The Israeli withdrawal from Rafah came as Palestinians marked the anniversary of the 1948 creation of Israel - a day known to Palestinians as the Naqba, or catastrophe.

Thousands of Palestinians held marches throughout Gaza and the West Bank, many of them holding large wooden keys symbolising homes lost 56 years ago.

UNRWA said earlier that more than other 1,000 Palestinians had been made homeless by Israeli military raids this month before the current upsurge of fighting.




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