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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 03:18 GMT
Israel to step up military operations
Funeral of man killed by Jerusalem bomb at Gordon Cemetery in Rishon-Lezion, near Tel Aviv
As Saturday's dead are buried, Israelis want action
Israel says it will step up military operations against the Palestinians, following a series of militant attacks that have left more than 20 Israelis dead.

An official statement said Israel's security cabinet had approved a broad programme of actions "to put continuous military pressure on the Palestinian Authority and terrorist organisations which aims to put the brakes on terror".

Woman at funeral at Gordon Cemetery in Rishon-Lezion, near Tel Aviv
Israelis have been stunned by the weekend's attacks
Shortly after the announcement, Israeli forces entered the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip where they destroyed several houses and opened fire, killing three Palestinians.

Earlier in the day Israel launched strikes against Palestinian targets in Gaza and the West Bank, killing at least four Palestinian policemen.

The actions follow Saturday night's suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem that killed nine Israelis, and Sunday morning's gun attack on an army checkpoint in the West Bank that left a further 10 dead, seven of them soldiers.

An Israeli official quoted by AFP said the government would now take harsher military action including more air strikes and raids like those last week in two West Bank refugee camps - which left more than 20 Palestinians dead and triggered the recent militant assaults.

Seventeen months of violence since the Palestinians began an uprising against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza have claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people - about 900 of them Palestinian and 300 Israeli.

Lone sniper

The attack on the checkpoint, near the Jewish settlement of Ofra, appears to have been the work of a single gunman.

The sniper fired just 25 rounds as he calmly picked off his victims, hitting 14 people in all before making his escape.

The first three to die were soldiers guarding the checkpoint, followed by a paramedic and another soldier who had rushed to the scene. The gunman then shot dead two Jewish settlers as they waited in their car, and two more soldiers. A third settler died of his wounds later.

Israel Radio said the gunman left behind a patched-up, ageing carbine rifle. Israeli television said soldiers had failed to locate the source of fire and at first shot back in the wrong direction.

The gun attack came just hours after the nine Israelis, including several children, died when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Beit Israel.

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.

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

Refugee camps

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

Residents of Balata camp react to explosions during Israel's incursion
Palestinians are bitter about refugee camp deaths
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.

The latest upsurge in violence follows 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 Orla Guerin
"Both sides are now trapped in a prison of bloodshed"
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"The statement didn't say what exactly Israel would do"
Uri Avneri, Gush Shalom 'Peace Bloc'
"The general population is becoming more and more disappointed with Mr Sharon"
See also:

03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Israel on the defensive
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
Blast strikes Israel's most religious
03 Mar 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem bombing
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
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