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SLUG: 2-304339 Israel/Palestinians (L)









INTRO: Israeli helicopters launched new attacks in the Gaza Strip Friday, while an Israeli man was killed in a shooting in the West Bank town of Jenin. V-O-A's Larry James has this update on the violence, which has continued nearly non-stop for the past week.

TEXT: Israeli gunships fired missiles at targets, including a car, in Gaza. The military said the occupants of the car were on their way to carry out an attack against Israel.

The latest Israeli attack follows reports that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered the army to 'wipe out' the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Among Israel's reported targets is Hamas founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Thursday, an Israeli missile strike in Gaza killed senior Hamas official Yasser Taha, as well as his wife and young daughter. Thousands of angry Palestinians attended their funerals in Gaza on Friday.

Hamas officials reacted angrily to Thursday's attack, and vowed to retaliate, saying every Israeli has become a target, and warning foreigners to leave Israel.

Earlier Friday, Palestinian militants fired a home-made rocket at the Israeli town of Sderot near the Gaza Strip. The rocket struck a house, causing some damage, but their were no reports of injuries. And, two Israeli women were reported wounded in a roadside ambush in the West Bank.

Also on Friday, Israeli troops demolished the Hebron home of the suicide bomber who carried out Wednesday's deadly bus bombing in Jerusalem.

U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday dismissed a suggestion by U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan that an international peacekeeping force is needed to stem the spiraling cycle of violence. Mr. Powell urged restraint on both sides, and said the United States is committed to the internationally backed 'road map' peace plan.

In an interview published Friday with the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz, Mr. Annan said he doubts that the 15 American monitors expected in the region would be enough. He said an international military force would be needed to serve as a buffer, in order to have realistic prospects for an end to the violence.

The violence over the past few days has claimed the lives of at least 35 people, mostly civilians.


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