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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 08:51 GMT
Israeli strikes kill four in Gaza
Palestinian policeman at scene of missile strike in Beit Hanoun
Israel has been hitting Palestinian police facilities hard
Four Palestinians have been killed as Israeli helicopters launched a missile strike on a Palestinian neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip.

The helicopters attacked twice, hitting a residential area near the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

Two Palestinians, who were in a cemetery at the time, were killed in the first strike. More people had gathered there when the helicopters attacked again, killing two more people.

Yasser Arafat
Israel says Mr Arafat has not done enough to stop violence
Israeli army radio said the helicopters fired at buildings near the camp where the military believed Palestinians had fired on the Jewish settlement earlier in the day.

The latest attacks came after US envoy Anthony Zinni, who had threatened to leave if there was no progess on securing a ceasefire, said he would continue with his peace mission.

Local Palestinians said the raid followed shelling of the area by Israeli tanks.

The Khan Yunis camp lies next to Israel's Gush Katif settlement block, which comes under regular mortar fire from Palestinian militants.

Earlier, Mr Zinni had held a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian security commanders.

Click here for map of Gaza Strip

Mr Zinni asked Israel to refrain from attacking Palestinian targets for another 48 hours to give Palestinians a chance to crack down on extremist groups, Israeli sources told AFP news agency.

But a statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, "Israel will reply to every mortar bomb fired and every other act of terror."

Funerals

The Gaza deaths followed a day of tension in the Palestinian territories.

About 3,000 mourners attended the funerals of two children killed in an Israeli helicopter attack in the West Bank city of Hebron on Monday.

Burhan al-Himouni, buried on Tuesday
Burhan al-Himouni, 3, was one of the victims
Israel has apologised for the killing, which Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo described as "immoral".

Also during the day, two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers earlier in disputed circumstances in the West Bank.

The Israeli military said its soldiers killed the two Palestinians near Tulkarm when their car ignored warning shots and refused to slow down at a checkpoint.

But a Palestinian source said she had seen soldiers chase two men into an olive grove on foot, after which she heard gunshots.

Diplomatic moves

The latest violence also coincides with a new mediation visit to the region by the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

He ran into heavy criticism after describing Islamic Jihad and Hamas as "terrorist networks" and demanded that Mr Arafat dismantle them.

The groups defended their own legitimacy and called on their supporters to continue their struggle against Israeli occupation.

Mr Solana's arrival in the region has further increased pressure on the Palestinian leader to acquiesce to Israel's demands that he make more arrests.




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 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Helicopter gunships struck twice"
Yuval Steinitz
Likud Knesset Member
Jihad Al Wazeer
Palestinian International Co-operation Minister
See also:

10 Dec 01 | Middle East
EU adds to pressure on Arafat
09 Dec 01 | Middle East
New York solidarity with Israel
08 Dec 01 | Middle East
US urged to restrain Israelis
07 Dec 01 | Middle East
Turkish PM says Sharon targets Arafat
05 Dec 01 | Middle East
Mid-East splits Europe and US
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Outrage at Israeli strikes
04 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat's Hamas problem
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Hamas?
03 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are Islamic Jihad?
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