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Each side blames the other for Gaza deaths

Palestinian security officers
Palestinian security officers approach the rubble of a police post near Khan Younis, Gaza, on Sunday.  

RAFAH, Gaza (CNN) -- Three Palestinians died late Sunday in the Gaza town of Rafah. Palestinian security sources said they were killed by an Israeli missile; Israelis said they died from a wayward Palestinian mortar shell.

A member of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement died in the attack along with his daughter and son, said Palestinian sources, who reported two other fatalities earlier in the day. Rafah is on the border between Gaza and Egypt

Palestinian security sources said the three died as the result of an Israeli missile attack.

Israeli security sources said a preliminary investigation revealed a Palestinian mortar shell hit the Fatah member's house, instead of its intended Israeli target, during an exchange of fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

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The incident climaxed another day of intense fighting, punctuated by Israeli missile attacks and amid continued diplomatic efforts by top officials from both sides.

Several hours before this incident, Israeli Apache helicopters Sunday fired missiles on the headquarters of Force 17, the elite guard unit of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, Palestinian and Israeli military sources said.

The Israeli attack came at around 6 p.m. No one was in the Force 17 building at the time, the sources said, but one civilian outside the headquarters was injured.

Three others were wounded earlier in Palestinian-controlled Gaza when Israeli tanks shelled a Palestinian military base in the refugee camp of Khan Younis, Palestinian military sources said.

The Israeli army said both the tank and the helicopter attacks came in response to a mortar bomb that fell on Gush Khatif, an Israeli settlement in Gaza. An Israeli civilian was wounded in the attack, the army said.

In a separate incident, Palestinian military sources reported that Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in Rafah, site of the later fatalities.

Relatives carry the body of 13-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Arrar in Rafah on Sunday.
Relatives carry the body of 13-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Arrar in Rafah on Sunday.  

The Israel Defense Forces reported that Palestinians attacked Israeli troops with grenades and gunfire in Rafah during a routine patrol. Israeli troops returned fire only when they were able to identify the gunmen, IDF sources said.

Police in Israel were on high alert amid warnings Palestinian suicide bombers were planning new attacks on Israeli targets.

Meanwhile, two key players representing Israel and the Palestinian Authority appeared on U.S. political talk shows Sunday and voiced support for renewed negotiations, but they fell short of offering hope for a cease-fire in the near future.

On ABC's "This Week," Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres downplayed an Egyptian proposal for an international force to monitor a cease-fire.

"In order to monitor an agreement, you have to ... follow an agreement," Peres said. "If you have no agreement, what are they going to monitor?"

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat stressed the need for new negotiations on the same show, but said these could not happen without a cease-fire.

"What we need to do is to see an immediate implementation of the Mitchell recommendations," Erakat said. "But above anything else ... we need the Israeli government to join us at the negotiating table."

• Israel Defense Forces
• Palestine Red Crescent Society
• Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• Palestinian Authority

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