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Monday, August 27, 2001, updated at 10:47(GMT+8)

New Bloodshed Hits Middle East Truce Prospects

Israeli Warplanes Attacks Palestinian targets
A furious weekend of Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals in which at least 11 people died have left the two sides further apart than ever in efforts to end 11 months of violence and seek a peace settlement.

Israeli warplanes, tanks and bulldozers wrecked Palestinian security buildings on Sunday in response to seven Israeli deaths. Four Palestinians also died in the fighting.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat branded the strikes "barbaric", while Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer referred to Arafat as "a cruel enemy".

"Before us is a cruel enemy...because everything that happens in the field is precisely what he wants," Ben-Eliezer told a gathering of his centre-left Labour party.

Israeli Warplanes Attacks Palestinian targets
"We will fight terror to the bitter end. No one can expect us to sit quietly and do nothing when you know two suicide bombers are on their way to carry out an attack," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened an overnight security meeting with cabinet ministers and security officials to discuss the latest violence.

F-16 and F-15 jets left three Palestinian security headquarters in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in ruins in a pre-dawn bombardment after two Palestinian gunmen entered an Israeli base in Gaza on Saturday and killed three soldiers before they were shot dead.

Two other Palestinians died in the Gaza fighting. In two separate incidents, three members of an Israeli family and an Israeli merchant were shot dead by Palestinian gunmen on roads that straddle the West Bank and the Jewish state proper.

An armed group linked to Arafat's Fatah faction took responsibility for the two roadway shootings in the West Bank and Israel's response to the four deaths was not far behind.

Israeli helicopters fired seven missiles and destroyed a Palestinian police post in the town of Tulkarm close to the point where clothing merchant Dov Roseman, 58, was killed when he came to trade with Palestinian villagers.


Israeli tanks also wrecked three Palestinian security posts by shelling in the city of Ramallah, wounding seven people.

The latest attacks lowered the prospect for proposed truce talks between Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who had agreed last week to meet under German auspices.

Nearly 540 Palestinians and more than 150 Israelis have been killed since a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupted in late September after peace talks stalled.

One by one, Israelis buried their dead over the weekend, with families largely avoiding the publicity of television cameras.

"When I opened the door I suddenly saw three people in uniform hugging me from every direction, they didn't have to say anything. I understood what happened," said Nissim Anza, father of Major Gil Oz who was killed at the Gaza army base, of the moment when soldiers came to inform him of the death.

"From that moment, let's just say my world has changed, part of it perhaps has gone forever."

Israel said it held Arafat and the Palestinian Authority responsible for the Israeli deaths.

Arafat said the Israeli strikes would not deter the struggle for an independent Palestinian state.

"I repeat that the mountain will not be shaken by the wind," Arafat, in his green military uniform with a sub-machinegun slung over his shoulder, told reporters as he inspected rubble around a ruined security building in Gaza on Sunday.

In separate violence, three Palestinians, including an 11-year-old boy, were wounded during an exchange of fire with Israeli troops near the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

In This Section

Israeli helicopter gunships attacked a Palestinian security post in the West Bank town of Tulkarm Sunday evening, according to Palestinian sources.

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