- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

From combined dispatches
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Israeli soldiers engaged in fierce firefights with Palestinian gunmen during a raid into a stronghold of the militant Islamic Jihad group east of Gaza City yesterday, Palestinian witnesses and security sources said.
Two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops early today during the major incursion, bringing the night's toll to six Palestinians, hospital sources said.
The latest victims were killed in an exchange of fire. Shortly before, two brothers, Ala and Said el-Ilou aged about 20, also were shot dead and one other unnamed Palestinian died in similar circumstances.
A suicide bomber belonging to the military wing of Hamas blew himself up beside an Israeli tank. Palestinian gunmen fired at an estimated 40 Israeli tanks that rumbled several hundred yards into the Shajaiyeh neighborhood late yesterday evening, accompanied by bulldozers and attack helicopters.
Calls came from mosque loudspeakers for gunmen to come out and confront the Israelis, and witnesses said armed Palestinians were taking up positions on Gaza streets.
Witnesses said the tanks were moving toward the neighborhood from three directions. The Israeli military had no immediate comment.
Israeli incursions into Gaza City are relatively common. The presence of the bulldozers indicated the Israelis intended to knock down a building. Israel has been pursuing a policy of destroying houses of suspected militants.
The raid followed a stepped-up offensive by the Israeli army against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip after four soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack carried out by the militant Hamas group Saturday.
Since the bombing, Israeli forces have killed a senior Hamas militant and destroyed the house of another Hamas member Israel says masterminded Saturday's attack in the northern Gaza Strip. Hamas has also blamed Israeli security forces for the killing of six militants in a mysterious explosion Sunday.


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