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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Gaza families bear brunt of hostilities
Palestinian policemen carry the coffin of one of four officers killed in Israeli reprisals Oct 3
Hero's funeral for a Palestinian policeman
By Kylie Morris in Gaza

Parents in Gaza were in a quandary on Wednesday - whether or not to send their children to school.

An overnight attack on a Jewish settlement in the north of the Gaza Strip had brought fierce reprisals from Israel.

Classrooms were half empty in many schools, as families kept their loved ones close, in case of more trouble.

The trouble was concentrated in Gaza's northern reaches.

A Palestinian man sits beside the body of his son during the funerals of four policemen
Father's lament: A man sits beside his son's body
Hamas fighters had crept into the Jewish settlement of Alei Sinai, and killed two Israelis.

One was a 19-year-old woman, the other her 20-year-old boyfriend.

As many as eight other people were wounded.

Israeli special forces moved in to defend the settlers, and killed the Palestinian gunmen.

The two Hamas fighters have now been given heroes' funerals in Gaza City.

People in Gaza have watched their final messages broadcast on local television.

In the usual style of the militant Islamic group, the scratchy video shows each of the young men swathed in guerrilla fatigues, clutching a semi-automatic rifle.

They each explain their actions as a commemoration of the latest Palestinian intifada or uprising, now 12 months old.

Destructive reprisals

But their acts had destructive implications for their fellow Palestinians.

Reprisal attacks by Israel, using tanks and naval gunboats, swiftly destroyed seven security posts near the northern town of Beit Lahia.

In the process, six Palestinians died, four of them policemen, killed as they guarded their post.

Tanks have pushed as much as a kilometre inside Palestinian territory, in the north, and bulldozers have been busy tearing up farms in the area.

Scepticism about truce

While the Palestinian Authority, under Yasser Arafat's leadership, has condemned the attack on the Jewish settlement, the view from the street is not as clear-cut.

Many Palestinians pay scant regard to the deaths of settlers, believing any attack against them is justified on the grounds that they illegally occupy Palestinian territory.

Palestinians are also sceptical of efforts to breathe new life into a ceasefire between themselves and Israel, a truce so far observed mainly in the breach.

We're tired of negotiation for negotiation's sake

Hamas leader in Gaza
A meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Mr Arafat fell flat last week.

In the days following their talks, more than 20 Palestinians were killed.

About 200 people, mainly teenagers, were injured in Gaza last weekend alone as Palestinians marked the first anniversary of the intifada.

'Armed struggle continues'

The Palestinian Authority's attempts to develop the truce, by holding security coordination meetings with their Israeli counterparts, were as unpopular as the measures that followed.

An attempted arrest in the southern border town of Rafah sparked anger among local people, who attacked three Palestinian security posts.

A Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, explained the popular feeling by saying people were tired of negotiation for its own sake.

He said the armed struggle would continue in pursuit of political progress.

Palestinians, he said, had no trust in any promises made either by the Palestinian Authority or Israel.

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