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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 06:27 GMT
Israel attacks Arafat headquarters
Gaza City being bombarded by Israeli missiles
In Gaza missile strikes lit up the night sky
Israeli helicopters have attacked Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah while the Palestinian leader was inside.

Yasser Arafat
The Palestinian leader was not hurt
A missile struck an intelligence facility just metres from the quarters where Mr Arafat is living under virtual house arrest, but he emerged unscathed, according to Palestinian officials.

It was the closest Israel has come to harming Mr Arafat in 17 months of conflict. Warships also shelled his seaside headquarters in Gaza City, killing four of his bodyguards.

Elsewhere, five Palestinian policemen are reported to have been killed when Israeli tanks attacked their posts outside the West Bank town of Nablus.

Retaliation

The attacks came just hours after Palestinian gunmen shot dead six Israelis at a checkpoint in the West Bank.

A Palestinian woman grieving at the funeral of a Hamas activist
Over 30 people have been killed in the last two days

Attacks and reprisals have claimed the lives of over 30 Israelis and Palestinians since Monday.

The BBC's Caroline Hawley in Gaza City said that Mr Arafat's seafront compound there took extensive hits from Israeli warships off the Gaza coast and from Apache attack helicopters and F-16 fighter jets in the air.

Palestinian officials say helicopter gun ships fired 20 missiles at a separate security installation.

Ground troops

Later, five rockets are reported to have hit a police compound in the town of Khan Younis further south.

48 hours of violence
Monday:
Suicide bomber kills Israeli officer
Palestinian gunman dies near Gaza settlement
Militant kills three Israelis before blowing himself up

Tuesday:
Israeli troops kill two Palestinians near Nablus
Palestinian policeman killed in exchange of fire with Israelis
Three Palestinians killed in Israeli Gaza incursion
Two Hamas members killed by Israeli gun ships
Suicide bomber blows himself up outside settlement
Six Israelis die in Ramallah ambush

As the Israeli military action continued ground troops were also on the move in Ramallah and in the West Bank town of Nablus.

BBC correspondents say Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is under increasing pressure to find a new tactic to halt the relentless bloodshed.

Israeli right-wingers want the army to reoccupy all the Palestinian territories, while the left wants Mr Sharon to pull troops out.

Tuesday's attack on the Ein Arik junction checkpoint in the West Bank in which six Israeli soldiers were killed was one of the deadliest inflicted by Palestinian gunmen during 17 months of violence.

Suicide bomber

Earlier on Tuesday, a Palestinian blew himself up after trying to board a bus outside Mehola, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. There were no other casualties.

Israeli soldier in Ramallah
Israelis have been targeted in a spate of recent ambushes

The driver pushed the Palestinian off the bus and sped off before the suicide bomber triggered the device, Israeli security officials said.

That incident came after an Israeli helicopter gunship fired at an office of the radical Islamic militant group Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, killing two people.

Israel said the strike on the Hamas post in the Jabaliya refugee camp was "in response to the recent wave of murderous terror attacks".

Correspondents say the air strike was unusual, as Israeli aircraft have generally targeted security compounds belonging to forces linked to Mr Arafat.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Reynolds
"Police posts were destroyed"
The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"Israel is now hitting back"
Yasser Arafat's senior adviser Saeb Erekat
"We are swimming in our own blood"
Gideon Meir, Israeli Foreign Ministry
"This is all Yasser Arafat's responsibility"
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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