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Saturday, April 4, 1998 Published at 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK

World: Middle East

Protest march in Gaza over Hamas death

About a thousand marchers have staged a protest in Gaza over the death of a leader of the militant Islamic group, Hamas, last Sunday.

The demonstrators accused Israel of murdering the leader, Mohiyedine Sharif, and demanded revenge.

Hamas itself says it is planning revenge on a grand scale.

A leaflet issued by Ezeddin al-Qassam, the Islamic movement's military wing, said its attacks would be "unexpected and unimaginable."
[ image: Mohiyedine Sharif, the dead Hamas bomb-maker]
Mohiyedine Sharif, the dead Hamas bomb-maker

Though most Palestinians believe he was killed by Israeli agents, the charge has been strongly and repeatedly denied by Israel.

On Thursday night, the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, Ami Ayalon, met the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in Gaza to assure him that Israel was not involved.

Israel says Sharif died when a bomb he was working on exploded prematurely.

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority described the death as a terrible crime, but said nothing about who may have killed him.

The Palestinian leadership, including Yasser Arafat, have asked security officials to continue their investigations into the death.

Netanyahu attacks Palestinian Authority

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, says he will hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for any revenge attacks because Palestinian officials had earlier blamed Israel for the death.

"I would say that they ignite an already explosive atmosphere and that they could lead to the launching of terror attacks against Israel," he told a gathering of foreign diplomats in Israel on Friday.

The Palestinians deny responsibility.

"The Palestinian Authority is doing everything possible to avoid a further deterioration and to safeguard the peace process." said Palestinian Higher Education Minister Hanan Ashrawi.

Israeli security tightens

Hundreds of extra police and border police have been deployed throughout Israel, especially in Jerusalem, according to Israel radio.

There were also minor clashes between Israeli troops and another group of demonstrators protesting at the killing at a village, Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority has called for "quick and decisive action" from the US to prevent the peace process from being "aborted by Israeli intransigence."

US envoy Dennis Ross recentlymet both sides, but concluded the peace process was in "dire straits."

The Palestinian leadership says it has accepted the latest US initiative - Mr Netanhayhu has not because he says Israel needs more security guarantees.

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