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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 21:40 GMT 22:40 UK
Israeli soldier killed in West Bank
Israeli soldier waits outside Tulkarm for news of wounded comrades
The Israelis came under fire as they entered the town
One Israeli reservist has been killed in a fierce gun battle in the West Bank town of Tulkarm during an operation by the Israeli army.

Two other soldiers and eight Palestinians were said to have been wounded in the clash, which happened as the Israelis reportedly moved in to arrest militants.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a Palestinian militant group, said its fighters had ambushed the soldiers on the outskirts of the town's refugee camp.

The group, which also claimed an abortive suicide attack on a Tel Aviv night club on Thursday night, said it was retaliating for the recent killing of one of its commanders in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources say the Israelis sent troops backed by about 10 tanks into Tulkarm.

A group of infantry came under gun attack fire and the soldiers returned fire, Israeli sources said.

Palestinian hospital officials, who reported that the Israelis were firing tank shells, said eight civilians, including a four-year-old girl, were wounded.

Palestinian militants at funeral of Mahmoud Titi
Al-Aqsa said it was avenging an Israeli attack

In its statement, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said it had ambushed the Israeli troops in retaliation for the recent killing of Mahmoud Titi, its commander in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and two others.

Israel has not disclosed the purpose of its mission in Tulkarm but Israeli TV has carried a report saying the man killed trying to bomb a Tel Aviv night club on Thursday night was from Tulkarm.

The Palestinian news agency Wafa said in an unconfirmed report that Israeli troops had rounded up a number of people in the refugee camp on Friday evening and taken them to a military post.

The BBC's James Reynolds reports that Israeli officials regard the town as a starting-point for Palestinian suicide bombers, given its proximity to Israeli cities.

Israeli helicopter gunships reportedly hovered over Tulkarm following the gun battle and troops on the ground declared a curfew.

Attack foiled

The attack on the Studio 49 club was foiled when a guard opened fire at the driver of a car which was speeding towards it at one o'clock in the morning, as hundreds of revellers danced inside.

His shots detonated explosives inside the vehicle. Five people received light injuries in the blast.

"I fired one bullet at him. He fell out of the car and blew up," said the guard, Eli Federman, adding that he then emptied his magazine into the attacker.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades issued a statement, saying it had carried out a "remarkable, heroic martyrdom operation in the heart of Tel Aviv" aimed at ending the Israeli occupation.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Hawton
"There are conflicting reports about the situation in Tulkarm"

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22 May 02 | Middle East
23 May 02 | Middle East
05 Mar 02 | Middle East
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