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Israeli Soldiers Kill 1, Wound 4 in Gaza

December 8, 2002

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian woman and wounded her three children and a second woman in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, witnesses said. Israel denied the report.

The violence in Gaza followed a rare bombing on the Israel-Lebanon border, seriously wounding two soldiers, and Israeli tank movements in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said soldiers shot at armed Palestinians trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement. The military spokesman’s office said it had no information that women or children were shot.

The military said soldiers saw a group of Palestinians, some of them armed, approaching the settlement of Rafiah Yam. The soldiers opened fire on the Palestinians and saw Palestinians take four wounded away, while two others escaped, the military said.

But a Palestinian witness, Samir Abu Shahin, said Israeli soldiers opened fire at the Tel Sultan refugee camp, which is near the settlement.

``The woman and her family were walking in the middle of the street, and I saw her fall, and blood covering her body, and not far from her, the two children also fell.″

The woman, Nahla Aqel, 40, died of a bullet wound in the neck, Shahin said. Her 4-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter were critically wounded, and another woman was also badly wounded, he said. Doctors said a 7-year-old child of the slain woman was also hurt, though they did not say if it was a son or a daughter.

Clashes have become a daily occurrence in Gaza. Late Thursday, Israeli forces entered the Bureij camp, looking for a suspected militant, clashing with armed Palestinians. Ten Palestinians were killed, including several civilians.

The growing tension comes as Israel prepares for next month’s election in which a public angry and disillusioned with years of failed peace efforts is expected to grant a renewed mandate to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his hawkish Likud Party, which was choosing its candidates for parliament, the Knesset, on Sunday.

Likud’s 2,940-member central committee was meeting in Tel Aviv to vote for candidates according to a complicated formula designed to yield a party list containing both regional representation and nationally contested spots.

The results could influence not just the makeup of Likud’s Knesset faction but also the next Cabinet, since the party is expected to be the main component of the next government. Top vote-getters in Sunday’s internal vote are seen as likely to be awarded the most coveted ministries.

Sharon and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are slotted in the first two places on the list. Opinion polls show the party is likely to win close to 40 out of the 120 Knesset seats. The general election is set for Jan. 28.

Early Sunday, two Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded when a bomb went off on the Israel-Lebanon border.

The bomb blast broke the calm in an area that has seen little violence since Israel pulled its forces out of south Lebanon in May 2000 after an 18-year war against Hezbollah guerrillas.

A jeep on routine patrol along the western part of the border ran over an explosive device. One of the soldiers lost both his legs, doctors said.

Though Israel withdrew its forces behind a border drawn by the United Nations, Hezbollah insists that a small section in the eastern sector belongs to Lebanon but was given to Israel. Guerrillas have frequently attacked Israeli forces there.

Israel blamed Hezbollah for Sunday’s bombing. Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, commander in the border area, said Lebanon must crack down on the guerrillas.

``Lebanon has to choose between living in peace (with Israel) and living with extremist, fundamentalist terrorist groups who live with different game rules,″ he said.

In Beirut, Sheik Hassan Ezzeddine, Hezbollah’s media chief, said ``Hezbollah has no links whatsoever to Sunday’s explosion near the border.″

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