- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 19, 2003

GAZA, April 20 (UPI) — Israeli troops reportedly shot dead three Palestinians and wounded 25 others on Saturday night as large-scale Israeli army forces raided the area near Rafah refugee camp in the southern tip between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, medical sources reported.

Witnesses said that at least 40 Israeli army tanks, armored vehicles, jeeps and dozens of troops backed by air coverage of Apache attack helicopters raided the town and the refugee camp of Rafah near the border with Egypt.

They said that the Israeli army forces were apparently planning to raid the area, detain Palestinian activists whose names are on an Israeli security wanted list, and destroy the homes of dead Palestinian militants and others who are fugitives.

They said that the Israeli vehicles moved into Rafah from three directions and army forces besieged the overcrowded refugee camp.

They also said that fierce exchanges of fire and confrontations took place between the Palestinian militants and Israeli troops, as people used mosques' megaphones to call upon the residents to resist the Israeli army's incursion.

Medical sources said that three Palestinians were shot dead and 25 others were injured during the thrust into Rafah. They said it was expected that there would be dozens of casualties arriving at Rafah Hospital.

A Palestinian public security spokesman described the activity as the largest incursion into Rafah since the beginning of the intifada, which broke out against Israel in September, 2000.

Israeli forces had previously carried out several incursions near Rafah, claiming that they were destroying the homes of Palestinian militants or tunnels dug near the borders with Egypt to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

A few weeks ago, the Israeli army southern command had decided to freeze widespread military operations and mass destruction of

houses. Operations into the Gaza Strip were minimized.

Separately, a Palestinian militant reportedly infiltrated a Jewish settlement near Jenin in the northern West Bank on Saturday. He was shot and killed after wounding three Israelis, Palestinian Radio reported.

It said that the incident took place at the Shakid settlement, near the village of Ya'bad near Jenin.

A Palestinian security spokesman said that Israeli army forces backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers raided the town of Jenin. Israeli soldiers imposed a curfew.



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