- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 14, 2002

JERUSALEM Four Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip yesterday, including three in an explosion at a home believed to harbor a bomb workshop. Elsewhere, a Palestinian gunman died in a firefight with Israeli soldiers.
The explosion tore through a two-story house in the town of Beit Lahia, killing three members of the same family and wounding four others.
One of those killed was a member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, and another belonged to the militant Islamic Jihad group. Residents said they believed people inside may have been preparing a bomb that accidentally went off.
Separately, Israeli forces carried out operations in several Palestinian towns yesterday, in a continued roundup of militants and to crack down on suspected weapons-making sites.
Gunbattles between Israelis and Palestinians broke out in the Gaza town of Rafah and a nearby refugee camp on the Egyptian border. A gunman from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Fatah, was killed and six others were injured, Palestinian doctors said.
Israeli forces broke into local Fatah offices, destroyed equipment and caused considerable damage, Palestinians said. The troops also destroyed six metal workshops and 20 houses, leaving families homeless, witnesses said.
The Israeli military said the workshops were used to manufacture rockets and mortars. On Thursday night, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in Saad, an Israeli village two miles from the border fence. The house was damaged, but the family was not at home and no one was hurt.
In the West Bank town of Hebron, Israeli forces traded fire with Palestinians and surrounded an empty building, witnesses said. Army officials denied that Israeli forces were operating in the town, but said they had arrested a Fatah leader in a nearby village.
The violence fell on the ninth anniversary of the historic White House handshake Sept. 13, 1993, between the now-deceased Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Mr. Arafat that led to a series of peace accords.
Most Israelis believe the agreements have lost their meaning. A poll published yesterday indicated that 79 percent of Israelis believe that the interim agreements, which led to Israel's withdrawal from most Palestinian population centers, are no longer valid. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the accords are all but dead.

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