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 Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 13:49 GMT
Militants vow to avenge Jenin deaths
Amina Zaki Sabbagh carries the body of her son Ala Sabbagh during his funeral  in Jenin
Crowds turned out for the funeral procession in Jenin
Palestinian militants are threatening revenge after the deaths of two local leaders in the West Bank town of Jenin.

There are conflicting reports about what caused the explosion that killed the two men late on Tuesday in a building in the Jenin refugee camp.

According to witnesses, the two died in an Israeli missile strike.

However the Israeli military said neither it nor the security forces were involved.
Photograph of  Palestinian militant leader Alah Sabbagh
Sabbagh: Al-Aqsa leader in Jenin area

Hours after the blast, a suspected militant was killed in the Gaza Strip when his car, packed with explosives, blew up near an Israeli outpost.

It exploded when Israeli soldiers fired on it after it had failed to stop at a crossing point.

In further violence in the West Bank on Wednesday, a Palestinian was shot dead as he played a drum to wake fellow Muslims for Ramadan prayers in a refugee camp near Nablus.

Shin Bet role?

The dead men have been identified by hospital officials as Imad Nasharti of Hamas, and Alah Sabbagh of the al-Aqsa martyrs brigade, which has threatened revenge.

The two men were said to have been holding a meeting at the time of the blast.

Map showing Jenin in the West Bank, and Gaza
Palestinian security sources said they were leaders of their respective armed groups in the area around Jenin.

Both had been wanted by the Israelis for months, they said.

The al-Aqsa brigade - which is linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement - and Hamas often claim responsibility for attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

"We deny any involvement in what happened in Jenin", an army spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

However an unnamed senior Israeli security source told Reuters news agency that this did not rule out the possibility that a non-military Israeli security service - such as Shin Bet - could have been behind the blast.

Targeted killings

Israel radio suggested the men may have blown themselves up while making a bomb.

In the past, Israeli security forces have carried out a programme of "targeted killings" of known Palestinian militants whom it blamed for organising armed attacks.

A child outside a destroyed house in Jenin
Israel has destroyed homes of other suspected militants in Jenin
Such operations have often been followed by violent retaliation by Palestinians.

Witnesses said attack helicopters and an F-16 jet were in the area at the time of the missile attack.

They said that just before the strike, Israeli tanks and other vehicles entered the refugee camp which was heavily damaged in an Israeli incursion in April after a series of suicide bombings.

There had been suggestions that al-Aqsa militants had agreed to halt attacks on Israeli civilians in Israel and to limit their activities against military targets in the West Bank.

However, the BBC's Michael Voss in Jerusalem says al-Aqsa militants in Jenin say that any such deal no longer applies.

Gaza death

The car explosion in the Gaza Strip occurred near the Erez crossing point, but is not reported to have caused any casualties apart from the driver.

Israeli soldiers fired on the car when it failed to slow down.

Palestinian security officers also tried to stop the car, but it exploded and set fire to an empty building.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed the operation.

  The BBC's Michael Voss
"Israel denies that its military was involved"

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