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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"There is fury here at the killing of the policemen"
 real 56k

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Palestinians say it was an unjustified attack"
 real 56k

EU envoy to the Middle East Miguel Moratinos
"We are in a very serious situation"
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Yasser Arafat's spokesman Marwan Kanafani
"This is an ambush by the Israeli army"
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Ra'anan Gissin, advisor to Ariel Sharon
"We regret any loss of life"
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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 20:31 GMT 21:31 UK
Palestinian fury over killings
Palestinian paramilitary police mourning lost comrades
This was the heaviest blow sustained by Palestinian police
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has described the killing of five Palestinian policemen in the West Bank as a "dirty assassination" by Israel.

Mr Arafat's remarks came as thousands of Palestinians chanting "revenge" gathered outside a West Bank hospital for a memorial procession.

They [the Israelis] will not push us or threaten us. We are not scared and Israel should know it will pay for this crime

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
The Palestinian authority has lodged a formal protest with the United Nations Security Council after the killings, and a major Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip overnight in which 15 Palestinians were wounded.

It was the highest Palestinian death toll in recent months since the Palestinian Intifada (or uprising) began last September after peace talks with Israel became deadlocked.

There was more violence during the day, with two Palestinians shot dead and several others wounded during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip.

The latest hostilities coincided with a visit to the United States of a senior Palestinian official and a new rejection by Israel of the findings of an international report that could have led to a possible ceasefire.

Dispute over killings

After meeting the European Union's Middle East envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos, the Palestinian leader blasted the killing of his policemen.

"It's not a killing, it's an assassination and this is a dirty operation by Israel," Mr Arafat said.

He said all but one of the paramilitary policemen, whose duties included liaison with Israeli troops guarding a nearby military checkpoint, were asleep when they were killed.

He said that Israel would pay for the killings - and for the overnight bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat vowed to make Israel pay for the 'crime'
The circumstances of the incident in which the policemen were killed remain in dispute: the Israeli army said that soldiers opened fire on "suspicious figures", but a Palestinian spokesman accused the Israelis of opening fire without reason near a roadblock at Bitunia west of Ramallah.

The Israelis said the Gaza attack was in response to what they described as "continuing Palestinian terrorist activities".

Warships off the coast fired shells at Palestinian naval police positions in central Gaza, while helicopter gunships attacked Palestinian armoured vehicles north of Khan Younis, near the Jabalya refugee camp.

No ceasefire

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says the latest violence amounts to an intensification of the conflict, with the approach of the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel on Tuesday.

Palestinians call it al-Nakba day, a reference to what they commonly call "the catastrophe" of 1948.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon has rejected a freeze on settlement building
A senior Palestinian official is in Washington on a mission to persuade President George W Bush's administration to intervene in the stalled Middle East peace process.

Mahmud Abbas is the highest-ranking Palestinian to be invited to Washington since Mr Bush took office in January.

Mr Abbas is due to discuss with US Secretary of State Colin Powell a report by an international panel which calls for Israel to freeze the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr Powell has described the report as "very fine", saying it could "give us a launch pad to start a new initiative" in the Middle East.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already rejected any freeze on settlements.

The talks are also expected to explore an Egyptian-Jordanian plan that would lead to a full resumption of peace talks.

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See also:

14 May 01 | Middle East
Israel strikes against Palestinians
13 May 01 | Middle East
Palestinians seek US support
11 May 01 | Middle East
Mid East violence escalates
17 Oct 00 | Middle East
Tanzim: Shock troops of the uprising
10 May 01 | Middle East
Israel hits Arafat's nerve centre
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