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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 08:28 GMT
Israel hits Gaza and Arafat HQ
Security guards inspect ruins of Gaza TV station
The explosion could be seen across Gaza City
Israel has stepped up military pressure on the Palestinian territories, blowing up the Voice of Palestine TV and radio station in the Gaza Strip and killing five Palestinians in a clash at a refugee camp.


We are in a war

Ariel Sharon
Israeli Prime Minister
In the West Bank, Israeli helicopters attacked the headquarters compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the second day running.

Israeli warships traded machine-gun fire with Palestinian gunmen in Gaza as tanks and infantry advanced after a series of air attacks on Wednesday which killed at least 15 people in the Palestinian territories.

Enlarge image Enlarge map
Map of the West Bank and Gaza
Shooting also erupted early on Thursday at an Israeli checkpoint north of the town of Tulkarm in the West Bank.

Palestinian gunmen opened fire, injuring a number of soldiers, the Israeli army said. Troops fired back, killing at least one man.

The clashes follow Israel's security cabinet decision to intensify attacks on Palestinian militants, after six Israeli soldiers were killed on Tuesday.

Officials at the Voice of Palestine TV and radio headquarters in the eastern suburbs of Gaza City said Israeli forces had seized the building and detonated explosives.

Voice of Palestine has been routinely accused by Israel of inciting violence and its aerial in the West Bank had already been destroyed by the Israelis.

Palestinian security guards survey missile damage to Yasser Arafat's compound
Wednesday's air attack on Arafat's headquarters killed a policeman
Apache helicopters fired two rockets at a building in Mr Arafat's compound in Ramallah, slightly injuring one of his bodyguards.

The target was just a few metres from where the Palestinian leader and his aides were staying.

Mr Arafat condemned the attack as an attempt to make the Palestinians "kneel".

A rocket attack on the compound on Wednesday killed one policeman.

Gun battle

Israeli warplanes also fired missiles at a Palestinian security building in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. There were no reports of casualties.

At least four people were killed and over 25 injured at the Brazil refugee camp near Rafah, in the south of the strip, after an Israeli tank incursion sparked a gunfight there.

Another 10 Palestinians were wounded elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.
Man injured in attack at Kissufim crossing
Four people were also injured in the Kissufim attack

One of the dead was identified by doctors as a Palestinian gunman, Mohammed Ammens.

Tanks and a bulldozer had entered the town and demolished the home of a suicide bomber who killed an Israeli woman and two soldiers at Gaza's Kissufim crossing into Israel on Monday.

During the Israeli operations, loudspeakers at mosques were used to call out Palestinians to defend Gaza City against the Israelis.

Sharon says 'War'

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that the Palestinian death toll on Wednesday - which it put at 18 - was the highest for a single day since the start of the current Palestinian uprising in September 2000.

Helicopters and warplanes mounted attacks on both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and Palestinian militants from the Hamas group fired home-made rockets out of Gaza towards Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon's government is intensifying the military action
The attacks began in the wake of the killing by Palestinian gunmen of six Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near the village of Ein Arik in the West Bank late on Tuesday.

"We are in a war... against us by the coalition of terror that has been established by Chairman Arafat after choosing a strategy of terror," said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who chaired the security cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

For their part, Palestinian leaders have called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to address the upsurge in violence.

The council is due to hold consultations on the situation in the Middle East on Thursday.

With the latest four deaths at Rafah, at least 1,156 people are now estimated to have died in the Palestinian uprising, including 883 Palestinians and 273 Israelis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Reynolds reports from Jerusalem
"We're in a heavy period of violence here"
Dore Gold, Advisor to Ariel Sharon
"Israel will defend its citizens"
Nabil Shaath, Palestine minister
"We are seeking to end this bloody conflict"
See also:

20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Dissent in the ranks
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?
15 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Arafat: Down but not out
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Fear and pride in Ramallah
20 Feb 02 | Middle East
Palestinian militants 'change tactics'
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