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Page last updated at 19:25 GMT, Saturday, 26 December 2009

Palestinian leaders condemn Israeli raid in West Bank

The funeral of Fatah activists in Nablus, 26 Dec
Thousands of mourners attended the funerals of the Fatah men

Palestinian leaders have condemned Israel's killing of three Palestinians in the West Bank as a "dangerous escalation" in violence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Israel's raid in Nablus threatened security and stability in the area.

Israel said the three men were behind a recent death of an Israeli settler.

Separately, the Israeli army said three Palestinians suspected of trying to infiltrate from the Gaza Strip were killed near the Erez crossing.

A security source for Hamas - the Palestinian faction which runs the Gaza Strip - said the three were shot as they collected scrap metal, Reuters reports.

The six all died on Saturday, the largest number of deaths in the region in a day since the Gaza conflict a year ago.

'Gates of hell'

"This [Israeli] operation represents a dangerous escalation," Mr Fayyad said.

He said the raid in Nablus "can only be seen in the context of targeting the security and stability that the Palestinian Authority has been able to bring about".

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Palestinian sources in Nablus say two of those killed were militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party.

The faction was one of two groups which said they had killed the Israeli settler, a father of seven, two days ago - the first fatal shooting of an Israeli by militants in the occupied West Bank for eight months.

Eyewitnesses said the Israeli raid began in the early hours of the morning and lasted for several hours.

They said there had not been a raid like this in Nablus for about 18 months, the BBC's Bethany Bell reports from Jerusalem.

Thousands of people later attended funerals of the suspected militants.

Many of them vowed to "open the gates of hell" against Israel, according to Reuters.

The violence came a day before the first anniversary of the Gaza war that killed some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.



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