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 Sunday, 12 January, 2003, 20:39 GMT
Day of bloodshed in Middle East
A destroyed workshop in Khan Younis
Salvaging metal from a destroyed workshop in Khan Younis
At least nine Palestinians and one Israeli are reported to have been killed in a day of widespread violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel.

Uprising death toll
Palestinians: More than 2,060
Israelis: More than 720
The incidents include an Israeli helicopter gunship attack that Palestinians say mistakenly killed two teenagers.

Palestinian gunmen have also tried infiltrating into Israel from across the border with Egypt, reports say.

Some 2,800 people have died since the Palestinian uprising began in September, 2000.

Sunday's fighting comes amid bitter recriminations between both sides.

The main incidents have been:

  • Two Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli in the village of Moshav Gadish, close to the West Bank, before being shot dead themselves by security forces.
  • Helicopter gunships target Hamas extremists in the town of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip - but Palestinians say the targets were missed and two teenage boys were killed
  • Two Palestinian gunmen are killed after trying to cross into Israel's Negev desert from Egypt, the Israelis say.
  • Hamas fire three rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot, injuring one person
  • A Palestinian is killed after Israeli troops enter the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza Strip
  • A Palestinian man is shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Hebron.
  • Overnight, dozens of Israeli tanks, backed by helicopter gunships move into Khan Younis in an operation in which one Palestinian dies

'Escaping accusations'

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of using the army to turn attention away from his internal political problems.

Destroyed house in Beit Hanoun
'Al-jihad' reads the flag above this woman's destroyed house in Beit Hanoun

"These operations were an attempt by the Israeli Government to escape corruption accusations and influence the Israeli electoral campaign by perpetrating more killings, destruction and state terrorism in the territories," Mr Erekat told the AFP news agency.

On Saturday, the Palestinian cabinet issued a statement calling for an end to all attacks on Israeli citizens.

Analysts say any respite in suicide bombings is could improve the election chances of opposition Labour candidate Amram Mitzna, who has pledged to reopen talks on a Palestinian state.

Mr Sharon was dismissive of the statement on Sunday.

"For the president of the Palestinian Authority, the murder of Israelis is a permanent goal coupled with political considerations," Mr Sharon told the Israeli cabinet, reports say.

"In his opinion, assassinations of Israelis before an electoral period are legitimate, but should be stopped in the run-up and be resumed after the vote."

More than 2,060 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising.

The Israeli death toll is more than 720.

  The BBC's James Rodgers
"Dozens of tanks backed by helicopter gunships were involved in the raid"

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See also:

06 Jan 03 | Media reports
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
06 Jan 03 | Middle East
05 Jan 03 | Middle East
18 Dec 02 | Middle East
18 Jul 02 | Middle East
21 Nov 02 | Middle East
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