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Palestinians: Israeli helicopters strike Gaza camp

Strikes on refugee camp kill 10, Palestinian sources say


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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Two Israeli helicopter attacks Thursday in Gaza's Rafah refugee camp have killed 10 people, according to Palestinian security and medical sources.

The strikes followed Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers Tuesday and Wednesday that have claimed 11 soldiers' lives. This week, violence in Gaza has claimed the lives at least 33 Palestinians as well as the 11 soldiers.

The fighting comes as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon works on revising his plan to withdraw military personnel and Jewish settlements from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.

Israel Defense Forces began the Gaza operation Monday night, saying the mission was aimed at destroying workshops used by Palestinian terrorists to construct Qassam rockets.

Israeli helicopters first attacked the camp early in the day, killing seven and wounding six others, Palestinian security sources and medical sources said. A second strike was launched around 10:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. ET), killing three and wounding eight others, the sources said.

Wednesday night, an Israeli missile strike in Rafah killed seven Palestinians, Palestinian medical sources said. Israel Defense Forces said the Palestinians were targeted because they were trying to hide an explosive device. The strikes on the camp followed an attack that killed five Israeli soldiers traveling in a convoy near Rafah, according to the IDF.

Israeli remains returned

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said a deal was reached between Palestinian militant groups and Israel for the return of body parts of six Israeli soldiers who were killed Tuesday in an attack near the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City.

The remains were returned to Israeli authorities early Thursday, Palestinian sources and Israeli security sources said. Israeli tanks and bulldozers pulled back from Zeitoun by early Thursday, Palestinian sources told CNN.

Three Palestinian fundamentalist groups considered by Israel to be terrorist organizations -- Hamas, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Islamic Jihad -- had said they were holding the body parts and intended to use them to negotiate with Israel. The recovery of all body parts is needed for proper Jewish burial rites.

Hamas, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have each conducted attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets.

Sharon's proposal

Sharon's withdrawal proposal -- which would unilaterally withdraw Israeli military and settlements from Gaza and some regions, but not all, of the West Bank --has been praised by President Bush but was voted down in a Likud party referendum May 2.

The prime minister has said the withdrawal is necessary because the Palestinian Authority had failed to rein in attacks on Israelis and because the diplomatic process is in a "frozen state."

Palestinians have criticized Israel's new plan, charging Sharon is attempting to circumvent the negotiations called for in the road map to Middle East peace, which is supported by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

CNN's Talal Aburahman, Correspondent Matthew Chance in Gaza and Shira Medding in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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