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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 04:13 GMT
Israel hits back after suicide attacks
Police officer inspects air raid damage in Ramallah
F-16s destroyed a police station in Ramallah
Israeli troops are reported to have killed two Palestinians and wounded six more in a gunfight at a refugee camp in the West Bank.


My intention is to deliver the hardest of blows to the terrorist groups

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon
The shooting at Balata near the town of Nablus came after Palestinian militants carried out a string of deadly attacks which left four Israelis and three militants dead.

Monday's violence sparked Israeli air raids late into the night on Palestinian security targets elsewhere in the West Bank, and in the Gaza Strip.

Map showing Maale Adumim near Jerusalem and Morag and Kissufim in Gaza
Palestinian officials said a missile from an Israeli F-16 fighter destroyed a police base in Ramallah. Israeli planes also destroyed part of a security complex in a refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

In the Balata shooting, Israeli special forces infiltrated the camp early on Tuesday disguised as Palestinians. They opened fire after they were spotted, before withdrawing, witnesses said.

One of those killed was a woman, hit by a bullet inside her house. The other is reported to have been a Palestinian gunman.

In Monday's violence:

  • A would-be car-bomber detonated a device when he was stopped at a checkpoint near Maale Adumim on the way to Jerusalem. He and a policeman were killed.

  • Three Israelis were killed and four more seriously injured by a gunman who fired on their convoy near the Kissufim crossing point in the Gaza Strip before blowing himself up.

  • Two armed Palestinians tried to break into the Morag settlement in Gaza. Israeli troops shot at them, killing one.

  • Israeli tanks fired at the Khan Younis Palestinian camp near Morag.

  • Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets in the West Bank town of Ramallah, and Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militia linked to the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, said it had carried out the car bomb attack and the ambush to avenge recent killings of Fatah men in the Gaza Strip.

Medics carry a man injured in the Gaza ambush
Four died and four were hurt in the Gaza ambush
The BBC's James Reynolds in Jerusalem says the violence is affecting Israeli morale, with many unhappy that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not reduced the number of attacks against Israelis.

Our correspondent says some see a new militant tactic in recent days - an apparent concentration of effort on hitting soldiers and settlers as opposed to Israeli civilians within the country's 1948 borders.

'Hardest of blows'

The Balata shooting came shortly after Mr Sharon had met senior officials to discuss how to react to Palestinian attacks.

Shimon Peres (left) and Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon has vowed revenge for each attack
"My intention is to deliver the hardest of blows to the terrorist groups, in the hope that one day, possibly, there will also be people with whom we can talk," he told his Likud faction earlier in the day.

As usual, he and other Israeli officials were swift to blame Yasser Arafat for the attacks, which the Palestinian leader denies.

Mr Arafat has been pinning his hopes on a tentative proposal in which the whole Arab world would make peace with Israel in return for total withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kylie Morris
"The bombardment follows the death of four Israelis"
The BBC's James Reynolds
"A day of fairly intensive attacks"
See also:

18 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel reservists back occupation end
25 Jan 02 | Middle East
Yasser Arafat's dilemma
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Dec 01 | profiles
Who are the suicide bombers?
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