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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 07:20 GMT
Israel hits back after suicide attacks
Palestinians surveying damage in Ramallah
F-16s destroyed a police station in Ramallah
Israeli troops are reported to have killed three Palestinians in a refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

This brings to five the number of Palestinians killed in retaliation for a string of suicide attacks on Monday which left four Israelis and three militants dead.

The army had no immediate comment on the latest incident - at the Khan Younis refugee centre - which comes amid an escalating wave of violence.

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli special forces raided a refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank, killing two Palestinians in a gun battle which broke out after they were spotted.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met senior security advisers on Monday night to discuss how to respond to the attacks.

He is reported to have agreed to continue Israel's controversial policy of assassinating militants, and to keep up the pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to do more to curb the violence.

Refugee camps

The BBC's Caroline Hawley says Israel's response to Monday's spate of violence followed a familiar pattern - air raids on Palestinian police positions in Gaza and the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Hospital sources in the town of Khan Younis said the latest three casualties - two women and a man - were killed when tank shells hit their homes on Monday night in the Khan Younis refugee camp. Their bodies were only discovered after dawn on Tuesday.

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

There has been no comment by the Israelis.

In the earlier incident at the Balata refugee camp near the town of Nablus, two Palestinians were killed when Israeli special forces infiltrated the camp disguised as Palestinians. They opened fire after they were spotted, before withdrawing, witnesses said.

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

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

Our correspondent says the aim of this operation remains unclear.

But it comes after Mr Sharon decided to intensify his response to Palestinian attacks - in an unchanged policy which our correspondent says is coming under increasing criticism inside Israel.

The extreme right want Mr Sharon to be tougher in his response, while those to the left want a resumption of peace talks, arguing that violence will bring yet more terror.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Quite an array of attacks overnight"
The BBC's Kylie Morris
"The Bedouin women were inside their shelters when they were killed"
Marwan Barghouti, Head of Fatah Movement
"This will not stop the Palestinian resistance"
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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