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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK
Gaza fears Israeli assault
Palestinians waiting at a checkpoint in southern Gaza
Israeli security is already being tightened in Gaza
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By Kylie Morris
BBC correspondent in Gaza

In the Gaza Strip, there is a growing sense of unease that Israel might respond to the latest Palestinian suicide attacks by launching a military campaign against targets in Gaza.

Soon after news of the second suicide bombing in 12 hours - this time in Haifa - Israeli F-16 fighter jets flew low over Gaza City.

People stopped in the street and discussed whether the return of the suicide bombers after a month-long hiatus could prompt Israel to attack Gaza from the air, or launch an invasion.

Israeli PM Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon: Hints that Gaza offensive could be next

Palestinians here watched for weeks while Israel carried out a comprehensive campaign against West Bank towns like Jenin and Nablus, in an effort to stamp out attacks by militants.

But few believed Israel's campaign would work.

Indeed, there has been a blossoming in the number of people in Gaza prepared to become involved in the resistance, with militant groups like al-Aqsa reporting a new level of interest in their activities.

Going nowhere

Schoolteachers, office workers and police officers are lining up to take on a part-time role as gunmen patrolling the streets in case of an Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The tension has been heightened by hints from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he cannot rule out a similar operation in Gaza to the one carried out by his forces in the West Bank.

The Islamic militant group Hamas retains its popularity on the streets of Gaza.

A local commander of the military wing, Izzedine Qassam, this week told the BBC that there was a consensus among all the Palestinian factions, including Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, that armed resistance must continue because the way of negotiation has led the Palestinians nowhere.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Jerusalem
"If there is an incursion, it will be relatively quick"
The BBC's Kylie Morris
"For the moment, these gunmen rule the streets"
See also:

08 May 02 | Middle East
Witnesses speak of bomb horror
08 May 02 | Middle East
UN condemns Israel over Jenin
08 May 02 | Middle East
Analysis: Sharon's options
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