- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

GAZA, Jan. 28 (UPI) — Violence flared Tuesday in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as more than 4 million Israelis went to the polls to elect a new Knesset.

The Israeli army killed nine Palestinians, five in Gaza and four in the West Bank, and wounded and arrested dozens more in the West Bank town of Jenin, Palestinian medical sources said.

Palestinian residents of Jenin told United Press International that at least 20 tanks and armored personnel carriers stormed the town and its refugee camp at predawn, killed four young men, wounded 10 and detained dozens.

The Israeli army said the aim of Tuesday's military operation was to prevent potential Palestinian suicide bombing attacks in Israel during the elections.

"The Israelis today are electing their leadership and the Palestinians are paying the heavy price," 45-year-old Jenin resident Kamal Abu Al Heija told UPI.

He said the Israeli forces raided the town early in the morning, after which soldiers announced over megaphones that they were imposing a curfew on the whole town and that anyone who left his or her house would be killed.

Medical sources at Jenin Hospital said four Palestinians were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers; two during the predawn incursion and two during clashes with the soldiers.

The sources said several people were shot and wounded by the Israeli soldiers' gunfire, adding medical rescue teams and ambulances were unable to reach the area because of intensive Israeli fire.

Witnesses said a fierce gun battle erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers in the town and in the refugee camp.

Palestinian militants said two Israeli soldiers were injured during the exchange of fire in the area, adding that one Israeli tank was damaged after militants exploded a roadside bomb.

Meanwhile, five Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip during the night, according to Palestinian security and medical sources in Gaza.

Three Palestinians were killed after an Israeli army attack helicopter fired a missile at an apartment in the northern part of Gaza City. Two of those killed were identified as members of the militant Islamic Hamas, and one as the young daughter of the property owner.

Two Palestinians militants were killed by Israeli soldiers as they tried to infiltrate the Jewish settlement of Itsmona in southern Gaza Strip.

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