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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 13:17 GMT
Four killed in Gaza clashes
A Palestinian boy takes cover as Israeli troops open fire on the outskirts of Beit Hanoun
A boy takes cover as Israeli tanks move into Beit Hanoun
Four Palestinians have been killed and 60 injured in clashes after Israeli tanks moved into the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip overnight.

Two of those killed were teenagers and one of them was a young boy, according to Palestinian hospital sources. The fourth casualty was a policeman.

The Israeli army said that the raid was part of a widespread search for militants from the Hamas movement and that it had made a number of arrests.

Israeli tanks also advanced to the outskirts of the towns of Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, and nearby Beit Lahia.


Map
ISRAELI MOVEMENTS:
  • Ramallah: Israeli tanks are 200 metres from Mr Arafat's offices
  • Jabalia: Tanks are on the outskirts of the town and of nearby Beit Lahia
  • Beit Hanoun: Israeli troops are occupying the town
  • Gaza City: Jets have bombed Mr Arafat's compound for three nights running
  • Rafah: Tanks entered the town

  • In southern Gaza, the Israeli army shot dead a Palestinian man who they said was trying to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif.

    Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in Gaza City suffered a third night of Israeli air strikes, and Israeli tanks also entered Rafah in the south of Gaza.

    In a separate development, early on Saturday the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which condemned "acts of terror" against Israelis and Palestinians and called for UN monitors in the region.

    US Ambassador John Negroponte said the Palestinian-backed resolution was aimed at isolating Israel and did not mentioned the recent suicide attacks against Israelis.

    Militants arrested

    Israeli tanks and troops moved into Beit Hanoun at around 0300 local time. Our correspondent says there is fierce fighting between Israeli troops and local residents.

    Yasser Arafat
    Arafat is under siege in Ramallah
    A number of security buildings were demolished and soldiers are reported to have used loudhailers to order residents to stay indoors.

    Eyewitnesses said a number of men were called out of their houses by Israeli troops, and the home of the leader of the military wing of the radical Islamic group Hamas, Salah Shihada, was raided and searched.

    The Hamas commander is currently in hiding, but Israeli troops arrested between five and 10 militants from the group.

    Dozens of other suspected militants were rounded up by Israeli forces on Friday.

    Israel says the action against militants is made necessary by the failure of Mr Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to control those responsible for violence against Israelis.

    The Palestinian Authority says it is doing its best to arrest militants but that military action by Israel has made that task all the more difficult.

    Hamas warning

    The Palestinian leader himself remains under siege in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, with Israeli tanks stationed only 200 metres from his offices. He is expected to make a statement to his people on Sunday.

    A Palestinian swings his slingshot aiming at Israeli tanks
    Fierce fighting continues in Beit Hanoun
    On Friday night, F-16s dropped at least two bombs, damaging a building used by the Palestinian leader's elite commando squad, Force 17.

    Israeli army sources it was a direct response to the firing of two mortars into a Jewish settlement in northern Gaza.

    In a speech during a demonstration in the Syrian capital Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal issued a warning to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

    "Each time Sharon commits a massacre, the response will come in Jerusalem, in Haifa," said Mr Meshaal, referring to the scenes of recent attacks by Palestinian militants against Israel.

    US mission

    US Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni has left Israel for talks in Jordan and then Egypt.

    He might then return to Washington, US officials said.

    US President George Bush said Mr Zinni's job was being made tougher because Mr Arafat was reluctant to round up "killers and people who would derail the peace process".

    Earlier this week, Israel announced that it was breaking off all ties with Mr Arafat.

    The European Union signalled its disapproval of Israeli strategy on Friday, condemning the country's attempts to marginalise Mr Arafat.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Kylie Morris in Gaza
    "It seems the operation is not over as yet"
    The BBC's James Reynolds, in Jerusalem
    "For the moment, there is no sign of a peace agreement"
    See also:

    15 Dec 01 | Middle East
    US blocks Mid-East observers
    13 Dec 01 | Middle East
    Palestinian leader's house raided
    13 Dec 01 | Media reports
    Palestinian radio hits back at Israel
    13 Dec 01 | Middle East
    US and EU to maintain Arafat link
    12 Dec 01 | Middle East
    Arafat says Sharon has him marked
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