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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 June, 2003, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Hamas militants killed in Gaza
Soldier guards Palestinians
More than 150 Palestinians were rounded up in Hebron on Tuesday
Two Hamas militants have been killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas' military wing said two of its gunmen had attacked an Israeli military outpost in the town of Beit Hanoun to avenge Israel's killing of senior Hamas member Abdullah Qawasme.

Later on Wednesday a Palestinian woman was killed and at least 15 others injured after an Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at a car in a village east of the city of Khan Younis.

Hamas sources told the AFP news agency that the target of the strike was a member of its armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, but the person killed was not connected to a militant group.

In the earlier exchange of fire, one soldier was injured in the hour-long encounter, which included light gun-fire and anti-tank weapons, an Israeli military source said.

The Israeli army said two gunmen had barricaded themselves inside a house and exchanged fire with soldiers.

The incident comes a day after an Israeli operation which rounded up 150 people in the West Bank.

Hamas angrily condemned the move saying it had damaged prospects of a ceasefire.

'Attack thwarted'

The Israelis say the operation followed warnings of planned attacks against civilians.

On Wednesday, Israeli police said they had arrested two Palestinians who they believed were on their way to carry out a major attack in central Israel.

They say a bag containing a large amount of explosives was found and was blown up in a controlled explosion.

Police commander Yehuda Bachar said it had prevented "a large attack which would have had a lot of victims".

He said the size of the explosion had led police to believe the device contained dozens of pounds of explosives.

"It was a huge explosion that damaged the windows in nearby homes," the police commander said.

The arrests reportedly followed a tip-off that a potential suicide bomber and an accomplice had crossed into Israel.

Roadblocks were set up and hours later an anti-terrorism unit captured the two suspects in Kfar Kassem, an Israeli-Arab village 12 miles northeast of Tel Aviv, Mr Bachar said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - has been trying to persuade Palestinian militants to stop attacking Israel, in line with the latest US-backed peace plan, called the roadmap.




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