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SLUG: 2-294950 Israel Palestinians (L-UPD)









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INTRO: The militant Islamic group Hamas is vowing to launch attacks to avenge the killing of 14 Palestinians in an Israeli military raid in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis. Ross Dunn reports from Jerusalem.

TEXT: Hamas says Israel will pay a heavy price for the Israeli army operation against Khan Younis, long regarded as a stronghold of the militant Islamic organization.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi called for Palestinian groups to join in a wave of terror attacks against Israelis.

He was reacting to the Israeli army operation, in which a missile was fired into a crowd. Palestinians say the missile attack accounted for most of the deaths and injuries. Palestinians also say the Israelis fired machine guns and a tank shell at a hospital where the dead and injured were being taken after the fighting.

Mr. Rantisi says Palestinians must strike at every "Zionist," describing all Israelis as murderers.

The military wing of Hamas has carried out suicide bombings since 1994 that have killed scores of Israelis and is named on the State Department's list of terrorist groups.

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for an international peace-keeping force to come to the rescue of the Palestinian people.

The Israeli army dismissed reports by Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials that innocent civilians had been targeted in the incursion.

In a statement, the Israeli army said that the operation had been launched to destroy "terrorist infrastructure" in the area. The army said the soldiers discovered explosives and bomb-making equipment and arrested one Palestinian militant leader.

The Israeli army said the missile fired during the raid was aimed at armed Palestinians and who were attacking soldiers with rifles and grenades.

Israel's deputy defense minister, Weizman Shiri, says that his government is sorry about any unintended harm to civilians, but Israel is involved in a war against Palestinian terrorism.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians were shot dead and 15 injured in clashes between Palestinian police and Hamas militants in Gaza City.

The fighting erupted after Palestinian security forces spotted two men they believed were involved in the murder of a Palestinian police commander earlier in the day.

Police attempts to arrest the men were blocked by a group of Palestinian gunmen, who fired in the air and managed to help the suspects escape. At least two were people killed in the ensuing clashes between the police and the gunmen. (SIGNED)


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