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Monday, 30 July, 2001, 21:00 GMT 22:00 UK
Israeli helicopters attack Gaza police
Six activists were buried in the West Bank
The attack coincided with funerals in the West Bank
Violence in the Middle East has continued to escalate with Israeli helicopters in action over Gaza City, attacking a Palestinian police headquarters with rockets.

Four policemen were slightly injured and witnesses said there were frantic scenes as people ran out into the street.

The Israeli military said the building - which is close to the compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat - was being used to make weapons and mortar bombs.

Wreckage of the explosion in Fara
The Fara blast left six dead
But this was denied by the Palestinian police force in Gaza, who said the rockets hit a deserted sleeping area.

Boiling point

Israeli-Palestinian tension is at boiling-point following violent clashes in Jerusalem on Sunday and an explosion overnight in Fara in the northern West Bank, which killed six activists belonging to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

The Palestinian Authority warned that the latest helicopter attack would only encourage further violence.

Following the attack, gunmen opened fire on an Israeli police patrol in the West Bank, wounding three policemen, one seriously.

An officer inside the Gaza City police HQ said three rockets had been fired into a building housing the bathrooms of a training facility close to the complex's main weapons store.

Map

The complex has been attacked many times since Israeli-Palestinian violence broke out 10 months ago.

But BBC correspondent Kylie Morris said Monday's helicopter attack was the first of its kind since a ceasefire agreed between Israel and the Palestinians in June.

Most of the violence in Gaza has been limited to the southern border town of Rafah and at flashpoints around Israeli settlements dotted around the territory.

Our correspondent says the sight of helicopter gunships in the skies above Gaza City has marked an unwelcome return to a level of violence which many there had hoped could be avoided.

West Bank funerals

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funerals on Monday of the six men killed in Fara.

Four of the bodies were wrapped in Palestinian flags. The other two, mutilated by the explosion, were carried in sealed coffins.

The crowd waved flags and called for revenge, but the funerals passed off peacefully.

Palestinian security sources said the explosion was caused by an Israeli tank.

Israel has denied any involvement, saying the six men were blown up when a bomb they were preparing went off prematurely.

Israeli securoty sources told the Associated Press that three of the dead men were wanted by Israel in connection with recent bomb attacks.

Temple Mount clash

On Sunday, trouble erupted in Jerusalem at the holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, which houses Al-Aqsa mosque.

Palestian police outside the Gaza HQ
Four Palestinian police were injured in the helicopter attack
Palestinian stone-throwers attacked Jews praying at the Western Wall of the disputed sanctuary, after an ultra-nationalist Jewish group carried out a ceremony nearby marking the symbolic laying of a cornerstone for a new Jewish temple.

More than 30 Palestinians and 15 Israeli police were injured in the clashes - which echoed events at the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September when Ariel Sharon, who went on to be elected Israeli prime minister, toured the mosque compound.

The ensuing violence has left about 675 people dead, including more than 525 Palestinians and 125 Israelis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kylie Morris in Gaza
describes the ongoing violence
See also:

30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Fatah: Cornerstone of Arafat's power
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Jerusalem's familiar refrain
21 Feb 01 | Middle East
Israeli 'assassination policy' condemned
29 Jul 01 | Media reports
Arab press angry at Jerusalem violence
29 Jul 01 | Middle East
Violence erupts at Jerusalem holy site
19 Jul 01 | Middle East
Rabbis urge Temple Mount visit
27 Jun 01 | Middle East
Arabs want US to push Israel
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
26 Jan 01 | Middle East
Ariel Sharon: Controversial hardliner
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