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Palestinians to turn to U.N. after Gaza raid kills 13

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Jerusalem/Ramallah (dpa) - Israel pulled its forces out of Gaza City Sunday morning, after a massive overnight raid which left 13 Palestinians dead, at least 65 wounded and 131 shops and workshops in ruins.
Hours after the Israeli pull out, militants fired three Kassam rockets at towns in southern Israel. All three landed in open fields and caused neither damage nor injury.

Palestinians reported that soldiers shot dead a 6-year-old boy who was playing in a field near the town of Rafah, on the border separating the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Palestinians said after the Gaza incursion that they would ask the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel and hold it responsible for the escalating violence in the region.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz, however, said Sunday morning that the Jewish state is considering reoccupying the Gaza Strip and the government would decide when the best time for the move was.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a senior advisor to Palestinian president Yassir Arafat, said in Ramallah that the Palestinian Authority will call for a session of the Security Council to discuss what he called "the ongoing massacres by the Israeli occupation army in the West Bank and Gaza.''

"What happened in Gaza is considered a serious escalation,'' he said. "We hold the Israeli government responsible for this dangerous escalation. This massacre should not pass without punishment and the Israeli government has to bear responsibility...''

He said this escalation will lead to more violence and instability in the area and that "security will come only through an understanding with the Palestinian people and their representatives.''

Palestinian sources said most of the 13 dead in the raid were aged between 14 to 24 years. They added that in addition to the destroyed shops and workshops, the Israelis demolished the homes of three members of the Islamic militant Hamas movement.

Mofaz said the Israeli force which entered Gaza city Saturday night and which included armoured forces backed up by missile-firing helicopters, destroyed 40 arms workshops in the city.

Witnesses said dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles rolled into the city, targeting the highly populated neighbourhood of Zaytoon, and opened fire with heavy machine guns and other weapons.

It was the Israeli army's deepest incursion into Gaza since the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) more than two years ago and the second large-scale Israeli action in the Strip over the weekend.

Troops destroyed four bridges in the northern Strip town of Beit Hanoun, after Islamic militants in that area fired 10 Kassam rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot, which lies adjacent to the Gaza border.

"In the last few weeks and over the past weekend we have seen an increase in attempts by terrorist organizations, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, to carry out attacks,'' Mofaz told Israel Radio Sunday morning.

Abu Rudeineh accused Israel of trying to undermine an internal Palestinian dialogue currently taking place in Cairo which aims to get Palestinian factions to agree to halt attacks in Israel for one year.

He also accused Mofaz of escalating the military campaign in Gaza as a "publicity stunt'' ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections on Tuesday.

Mofaz told the Israeli cabinet Sunday morning that Israel was imposing a full closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip until after the elections, in wake of fears that Palestinian militants would try to disrupt the polling by carrying out attacks.

The closure was due to go into effect Sunday afternoon, he said. It would mean Palestinians would be unable to cross over into Israeli territory.

Also Sunday, a donkey laden with explosives blew up next to an Israeli bus in the West Bank south of Jerusalem. No injuries were reported, although several people were treated for shock.

dpa sar mak jab ms AP-NY-01-26-03 0821EST

Copyright (c) 2003 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 01/26/2003 08:21:29

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