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Clashes rage after Israeli soldier killed in West Bank

Gunshots rang out in the West Bank and Gaza during the night ...

Gunshots rang out in the West Bank and Gaza during the night as violence that has raged for seven months flared again following the killing of an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian militant.

A Palestinian sniper shot dead 20-year-old Danny Darai in the West Bank town of Bethlehem yesterday, triggering a fierce gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinians. At least six Palestinians were wounded in the fighting, including a four-year-old girl in critical condition, as Israeli tanks pounded the Paradise Hotel where they said snipers were taking cover.

In Gaza, there was more violence after an Israeli helicopter gunship killed Islamic Jihad militant Mohammed Abdelal in a missile attack on his car. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told a news conference in Oslo: "This man was on the way to an act of terror and we have the right to defend our lives," adding: "We wish it would be prevented by the Palestinian authorities, it would be much easier."

Israeli security sources said Abdelal had been involved in several attacks since 1994, including one at a soldiers' hitchhiking post in Israel in 1995 in which 22 people died. The militant Islamic Jihad and Hamas vowed to avenge Abdelal's killing. Hamas, which has carried out several attacks in Israel, including two suicide bombings last week that killed two Israelis, said it had seven suicide bombers ready to attack.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, an adviser to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, said the missile attack marked a return to a "policy of assassination" by the Israeli government. Palestinian officials have accused Israel of assassinating at least 20 Palestinian activists since the uprising against Israeli occupation erupted last September. Israel says it does not pursue a policy of assassination.

Gunfights erupted throughout the West Bank and Gaza late on Monday. In a firefight near the Gaza-Egypt border, Israeli soldiers shot a 15-year-old Palestinian in the head, medical sources said, describing his condition as critical. At least 367 Palestinians, 71 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed in the uprising against Israeli occupation that erupted after peace talks deadlocked.

In a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accused the Palestinians of escalating the uprising, an Israeli diplomatic source said.

gulf-news.com