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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 15:47 GMT
Anger over Gaza killings
Funeral of Palestinian militants killed by Israel
Palestinian militants have said they will take revenge
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accused each other of escalating tension after six Palestinians were shot dead in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israel said three of the dead were would-be suicide bombers trying to cross into the Jewish state, while the others were planning to plant a bomb near a Jewish settlement.

We will pursue the attacks and painful strikes against the Zionist enemy

Popular Resistance Committee
Palestinian radicals have vowed to take revenge for the killings.

It came as Palestinian officials called for US peace envoy Anthony Zinni to return to the region following a drop in violence over the past two weeks.

Israeli security forces said the Palestinians who were shot dead near Beit Hanoun, close to the border with Israel, on Sunday night were wearing explosives and were heavily armed.

"We are certain that the second group was preparing to commit a spectacular bomb attack," said General Israel Ziv, head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.
Members of Fatah
Some of the dead militants belonged to Yasser Arafat's Fatah organisation

The radical Palestinian group the Popular Resistance Committee said the dead men belonged to the movement and vowed revenge.

"We will pursue the attacks and painful strikes against the Zionist enemy occupying our land," mourners chanted at the funeral of one of the men.

Earlier, Israeli tanks killed three Palestinians near the Jewish settlement of Elei Sinai.

The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of "assassinating" the men.

"Israel has fanned the flames again by killing Palestinian citizens," it said in a statement.

Reduced violence

The clashes come after a relative lull in the violence and amid speculation that the United States is preparing to send its peace envoy back to the region.

Just hours before the new violence, the Israeli Defence Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, told a cabinet meeting that the number and severity of attacks had dropped for a second week in a row.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his demand for a full week of complete calm before Israel will restart stalled peace talks.

Palestinian attacks - including shootings, bombings, grenade attacks, assaults and stabbings - have dropped from an average of 18 a day before Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's call for an end to violence to 11 a day since his speech, according to the Israeli army.

Only one Israeli has died in political violence since then.

More than 70 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in December - most of them in the first half of the month.

The BBC's James Reynolds
"Both attacks happened in the north of the Gaza Strip"
See also:

28 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian 'suicide bomber' killed
22 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinians wait for Israeli move
17 Dec 01 | Middle East
Israel demands 'actions not words'
13 Dec 01 | Middle East
Settlers react with anger and defiance
31 Dec 01 | Middle East
Q&A: Arafat and Israel
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