Five Palestinians are killed in Israelis' Gaza incursion


JERUSALEM - Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinians yesterday as the army sent tanks into the northern Gaza Strip to try to halt repeated Palestinian rocket fire coming from there, the Israeli military and Palestinian hospital officials said.

About 30 Palestinians and five Israeli soldiers were wounded in the daylong clashes that involved hundreds of Palestinians around the town of Beit Lahia, the two sides said.

Palestinian militants had begun stepping up rocket attacks Sunday, a day after an Israeli helicopter strike killed Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Gaza leader of Hamas. Less than a month earlier, Israel killed his predecessor, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the same way.

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said yesterday that the "targeted killings" would continue.

"We got rid of murderer No. 1 and murderer No. 2, and the list is not short," he said in a speech in Ashdod, Reuters reported.

The tanks and an armored bulldozer entered the Beit Lahia area yesterday morning, and Palestinian youths pelted the vehicles with stones and firebombs.

Palestinians fired automatic rifles and tossed grenades, the military said. The soldiers shot at armed Palestinians, the military said, but it had no information on the condition of those hit.

Three of the five Palestinians killed were teen-agers, and they included armed fighters, according to Palestinian witnesses and Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Motasem Nasser, 17, was shot and killed after he climbed on an Israeli armored vehicle, the Palestinians said.

Hamas said it would soon begin a new round of attacks on Israel.

Palestinians have been barred from entering Israel since Yassin was killed March 22. Palestinian attackers have not been able to reach Israeli cities in more than a month, though the Israeli security forces say they have thwarted numerous attempts.

Palestinian militants in Gaza, however, are able to fire homemade rockets at Jewish settlements inside Gaza and at communities just beyond Gaza's perimeter fence.

Palestinians have unleashed 15 rockets since Sunday, and most of the fire has come from the Beit Lahia area, a mile inside Gaza's northern border.

The Jewish settlement of Nisanit, on Gaza's northern frontier, has been the main target, but the militants have fired the inaccurate rockets at settlements throughout Gaza. Overall, three buildings have been damaged and several Israelis have suffered minor injuries, the Israeli military said.

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published yesterday in Paris that the violence in Iraq and the Palestinian territories had generated "unprecedented hatred" for the United States in the Arab world.

In the interview with the newspaper Le Monde, Mubarak also said, "It is despair that leads certain people to commit attacks on one or [an]other American interest." He linked the hostility partly to U.S. support for Israel, adding that "what happens in Palestine touches every people."

Asked whether Hamas, which has promoted violence against Israelis, was a representative movement with which European leaders should deal, Mubarak said the movement could not be eliminated. He was apparently alluding to the killing of the two Hamas leaders by Israel.

He also connected events in Iraq and Palestine, saying, "It is impossible to solve one problem without the other."

Asked about plans by President Bush to develop democracy in the Middle East, Mubarak said change should come from within the countries. "How can you apply the same model to Pakistan and to Saudi Arabia?" he asked. "What works in Egypt and Morocco does not work in Saudi Arabia."

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