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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 21:16 GMT 22:16 UK
Israelis make fresh raid in Gaza
A Palestinian woman weeps for the victims
The attacks provoked outrage in the village
At least one Palestinian child has been killed and another 11 people wounded during an Israeli raid in the south of the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian medical sources.

The sources said the boy was killed in the town of Rafah late on Thursday as children threw rocks and bottles at Israeli tanks entering the town.

The attack came hours after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of committing a "deliberate crime" and attempting to sabotage Middle East peace efforts, in a pre-dawn raid which killed four Palestinians.


Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expresses regret at the incident in which Palestinian innocents in the Gaza Strip were killed as a result of Israeli army fire

Israeli statement
"This is an unforgivable crime that is aimed at delaying peace efforts," Mr Arafat said of the attack, in which a 50-year-old mother and her sons died.

His response followed warnings from the Islamic militant organisation Hamas that it would avenge the killings with renewed attacks against Israeli civilians.

The Palestinian side has also cancelled the latest round of security talks between Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer and Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahya.

The talks are aimed at implementing a plan for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza in return for Palestinian security guarantees.

Army investigation

Israel expressed regret for the attack and the deaths of "Palestinian innocents".

"[Mr] Ben-Eliezer expresses regret at the incident in which Palestinian innocents in the Gaza Strip were killed as a result of Israeli army fire," the Israeli statement said.


When there are killings of Palestinian civilians, Israel can expect killings of its civilians

Mahmoud al-Zahar,
Hamas

The ministry also said that Mr Ben-Eliezer had ordered the army to "present him forthwith with its findings on the incident and conclusions for the future."

In a raid early on Thursday, Israeli tanks shelled two houses in a Bedouin encampment located in the Sheikh Ajlin area near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim.

Another four people were wounded in the attack, which came as Israel deployed land, sea and air forces to foil what it said was a Palestinian attempt to smuggle arms into Gaza by sea.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank town of Nablus, Israeli forces entered the Palestinian government headquarters and set off explosives, witnesses said.

They said they heard a huge explosion. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

'Cold blood'

Mr Arafat said in a statement that the Sheikh Ajlin attack was aimed against efforts to achieve a ceasefire by the Quartet Committee of European Union, Russian, US and UN representatives, as well as the peace initiative adopted by the Arab summit in Beirut.

He said the attack showed the "true intentions" of those who ordered such operations.

Meanwhile a senior leader of Hamas, a group responsible for many suicide attacks on Israeli targets, said the killings would mean retaliation.

"Members of one family were killed in cold blood," Mahmoud al-Zahar told Reuters news agency as he stood beside the bodies of the dead in the morgue of Gaza's main hospital.

"When there are killings of Palestinian civilians, Israel can expect killings of its civilians."

Israel said it launched its operation in Gaza following intelligence reports that Palestinians were trying to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip from the sea.

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The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"Neither side is denying that tension is increasing"

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26 Aug 02 | Middle East
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