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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 13:00 GMT
Hamas cancels massive Gaza rally
Israel senior army staff visit scene of Hamas attack
Hamas was responsible for a dramatic attack on Sunday
Palestinian militant group Hamas has abruptly cancelled an anniversary rally fearing Israel may target its leaders.

The rally was to be held on Friday at a large sports stadium in Gaza City. A stage had already been erected, chairs set out and posters pasted on walls.

A spokesman said Hamas was concerned by Israeli threats after a raid on Sunday by the group that killed five troops.

It would "protect the lives of the thousands who take part in the rally each year," Mushir al-Masri said.

The rally had been planned to mark the 17th anniversary of the organisation's founding at the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada.

Hamas rallies are elaborate shows of force, with march-pasts by masked gunmen and re-enactments celebrating successful attacks against Israelis.

About 100,000 people attended last year's event, the group says.

Israel has assassinated Hamas' two most senior figures in air strikes since then - Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi.

Hamas sources quoted by Associated Press said there had been renewed concern about the safety of their leaders after a Hamas activist narrowly escaped a car bomb attack in Syria on Monday.

Palestinian killed

Israel has continued to block roads in the Gaza Strip since Sunday, cutting the territory into three sections, after the attack at a military post near Rafah on the border with Egypt.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian civilian at the northern checkpoint on the Mediterranean coast road near the Netzarim settlement.

Palestinians walk along the beach after Israeli troops blocked the road between Gaza and Khan Younis
Palestinians have been forced to reach Gaza along the beach
The dead man's sister told AFP news agency that the Israeli forces had opened fire as they were just getting into a taxi after passing Netzarim.

Another man was seriously injured by Israeli fire shortly afterwards, reports said.

An Israeli military source quoted by Reuters said soldiers had fired warning shots towards Palestinian cars that sped into a closed military zone but that none was targeted directly.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian police officer was shot dead by Israeli troops near Gaza's deserted international airport and a Thai worker in one of Israel's Gaza settlements was killed by a Hamas mortar attack.

Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip since 1967 but is planning to pull out settlers and the troops who protect them as part of a disengagement plan to enhance its security. Its troops will maintain control of the territories borders, coastline and airspace.

Israel and the Palestinians



Palestinian women sit on a roof top of the home of a Palestinian family in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on 20 November 2006. Human shields
Palestinians adopt a new tactic to deter Israeli attacks, but this is a high-risk strategy





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