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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 11:02 GMT
Israel stunned by Palestinian attacks
Israeli army roadblock at Kalandia
Checkpoints - viewed with hatred by many Palestinians
Devastating Palestinian attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem have killed at least 20 Israelis.


The state of Israel knows how to defend the people of Israel, and will do so

Israeli Government spokesman
Ten people, most of them soldiers, were shot dead early on Sunday when a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an Israeli army checkpoint near the Jewish settlement of Ofra.

Hours earlier in Jerusalem, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed nine people in the Jewish neighbourhood of Beit Israel.

There has also been a shooting incident at another checkpoint in southern Israel near the Gaza Strip, in which one Israeli soldier died and several others were injured.

And a Palestinian was killed when Israeli tanks shelled a village near the West Bank town of Nablus.

The BBC's Nick Childs in Jerusalem says these are the latest incidents in a rapidly accelerating new cycle of violence.

He adds that, as the Israeli cabinet met on Sunday morning to consider how to respond, the situation on the ground appeared to be spiralling out of control.

The mounting Israeli death toll is likely to increase public pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to take even tougher military action against the Palestinians.

Israeli F-16 warplanes have already attacked Palestinian targets in the West Bank city of Ramallah. There are as yet no reports of casualties.

Injured man at Beit Israel
The Jerusalem blast left dozens injured
Seventeen months of violence since the Palestinians began an uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people - most of them Palestinian.

The attack on the military checkpoint in the West Bank saw Palestinian gunmen open fire from surrounding hills on the road block and the cars waiting there.

In addition to the nine Israelis killed in the attack, some 14 are reported to have been wounded.

Motorist Eli Barashi said he was about 300 yards from the checkpoint at the time.

"I heard shooting and I saw the soldiers firing back to the east. As I stood there somebody was hit and fell and shouted for a medic. He was about five yards from me," he told Israel Radio.

Residents of Balata camp react to explosions during Israel's incursion
Palestinians are bitter about refugee camp deaths
The attack followed Saturday's suicide bombing in an ultra-orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

The suicide bomber targeted people as they poured onto the streets at the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

Several children, including an 18-month-old baby girl, were among the dead, and more than 30 people were wounded.

"It was crazy. There were kids and adults running all over the place. I saw one woman sitting on the pavement screaming that her son had been killed," said one witness, a 22-year-old religious student from Britain.

Israel responded to the Jerusalem bombing with missile attacks by helicopter gunships on targets in Bethlehem.

Israeli military officials said a Palestinian government building and a weapons factory were hit. There were no reported casualties.

Celebrations

The Palestinian Authority has condemned the suicide bombing, but some Palestinians celebrated the news of more Israeli blood being shed.

A military offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, the al-Aqsa Brigades, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The group said it was a response to Israel's unprecedented assault on two West Bank refugee camps which left more than 20 Palestinians dead.

The Israeli army now says it has pulled out of the Balata refugee camp in Nablus after completing a search for Palestinian militants and weapons. Soldiers withdrew from the other camp, in Jenin, on Saturday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Childs
"The violence is in danger of spiralling out of control"
See also:

03 Mar 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem bombing
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Blast strikes Israel's most religious
16 Feb 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
02 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel pulls back from Jenin
01 Mar 02 | Middle East
Camps of despair and opposition
01 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel cautioned over raid
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel on the defensive
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