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Seven hurt in Gaza gunbattle

Israeli troops
Fresh fighting in Gaza has left seven people wounded  

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Seven people have been injured after Israeli soldiers and Palestinians fought a gunbattle in the southern Gaza Strip in a fresh spasm of violence.

Six Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were wounded after Israeli bulldozers and tanks entered a Palestinian refugee camp.

The latest exchange of fire came on Thursday, a day after the bodies of two teenage Israelis were found in a cave after apparently been stoned to death.

Israeli security sources said the tanks and bulldozers went into the region to destroy buildings where they claimed Palestinians had launched attacks on Israelis.

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Palestinian Public Security chief in Gaza, Major General Abdel-Razek Al-Majaydeh, said at least three houses and two Palestinian police posts at the Yebna refugee camp, close to the Egyptian border, were destroyed by the bulldozers.

The buildings were in a "pink area" defined by the Oslo peace accords as being under Israel security and civilian control, according to the Israeli sources.

Israeli sources said their troops were fired upon with anti-tank grenades and they responded with light fire.

Palestinian military sources told CNN Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered the refugee camp from three directions, and faced stiff resistance.

There was tank shelling and heavy shooting, the sources said.

The fighting came a day after two Jewish teenagers -- one an immigrant from Maryland, U.S. -- were found beaten to death with rocks in a West Bank cave.

The bloodied bodies of Kobi Mandell, 13, and Yossi Ishran, 14, were discovered in Wadi Hariton, a dry riverbed about half-a-mile (one kilometre) from their homes in the Tekoa settlement in the Judean Desert.

Israel's Channel Two TV said police believed there were at least three assailants who dipped their hands into the boys' blood after the killing and smeared it on the walls of the cave.

Police spokesman Rafi Yaffe said it appeared the boys were killed in a chance encounter. He said it was not clear whether the killings were linked to the theft overnight of dozens of goats from Tekoa.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was revolted by the killing. "It was a heinous deed in which children were intentionally attacked," he said.

He said he held Yasser Arafat responsible, saying the Palestinian leader was doing nothing to stop attacks on Israelis and was not a partner for peace.

Sharon
Ariel Sharon has accused Palestinians of doing little to halt attacks on Israelis  

Asked about the killings, Arafat said that Palestinian children have been victimised by Israel

Palestinian Cabinet member and peace negotiator Saeb Erakat said Palestinians regret any civilian deaths, regardless of what side they are on.

He said the only way to stop the continuation of violence was to resume negotiations with the Israelis.

Palestinians said there was no proof of who was responsible for the boys' killings.

Tensions in the region have been escalating since a four-month-old Palestinian baby was killed by Israeli shelling on Monday. There were angry scenes at her funeral Tuesday.



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RELATED SITES:
Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Palestinian National Authority

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