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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 13:35 GMT
Israel kills Islamic Jihad leader
Palestinian youth confronts Israeli army vehicle
The Qabatiya raid sparked clashes between troops and stone-throwers
Israeli troops have killed a leader of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad during a raid in the West Bank.

Walid Obeidi was killed during an exchange of fire in the village of Qabatiya, near the northern town of Jenin, officials and witnesses said.

Islamic Jihad is a small radical group that has launched most of the rocket fire directed at Israel from Gaza in the past two years.

In Gaza itself, an Israeli air strike killed three Palestinians.

Reports say a car carrying militants was the target of the Israeli missiles, but those killed were civilians, including a teenage boy.

'Refused to surrender'

Two of Mr Obeidi's bodyguards were wounded and arrested in the Qabatiya violence, Islamic Jihad said.

The Israeli army said that troops had attempted to arrest Mr Obeidi, described as the head of the armed wing of the radical Islamic Jihad movement in the West Bank.

Map of West Bank
He refused to surrender and was killed in an exchange of fire, the military said.

The death followed a major Israeli raid in Gaza City on Tuesday.

At least 19 Palestinians were killed during one of the deadliest days of violence in recent months.

Israel said the incursion was an attempt to stop militants firing mortars into Israel.

Reports of more rocket and mortar fire followed the raid. Hamas's armed wing claimed responsibility for a heavy barrage aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot, but there were no reports of injuries.

The violence comes after Israeli and Palestinian Authority negotiators began talks on Monday on core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - borders, Jewish settlements, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian Authority said Israel's military action was a "slap in the face" to US President George W Bush, who visited the area last week to promote peace talks.

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