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Israeli Troops Kill 3 Palestinian Gunmen in West Bank


Israeli forces have killed three Islamic militants during a raid in the West Bank. The raid is testing the fragile Mideast cease-fire.

Israeli troops raided a village near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, and surrounded the hideout of wanted Palestinian militants. The army said two gunmen fled the building and were killed in an exchange of fire. A third armed militant escaped, but he was tracked down hours later and killed. All the gunmen were members of the Islamic Jihad group.

West Bank raids have been rare since Israeli and Palestinian leaders declared a cease-fire seven months ago. But Islamic Jihad militants from the Tulkarem area have carried out several attacks during the truce, including two suicide bombings. Israel withdrew from Tulkarem as part of the cease-fire agreement, and Israeli spokesman Dore Gold says the Palestinian Authority has not kept its commitment to disarm terrorists.

"Until they assume responsibility and eliminate this terrorism, we will have to take operations to defend our populace," he said.

Palestinian Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told VOA that the raid is an assassination that threatens the cease-fire. But with the Islamic Jihad promising revenge, Mr. Erekat appealed for calm.

"We condemn this Israeli raid," Mr. Erekat said. "It's absolutely uncalled for. I think violence at the end of the day will breed violence. Maintaining the cease-fire is a vital Palestinian interest and I hope people will adhere to this. "

In another development, Palestinians crossed the Gaza border into Egypt without Israeli supervision for the first time in 38 years. The Palestinian Authority, which took control of Gaza after Israel pulled out last week, opened the border crossing for urgent travel for two days. But Israel is concerned that weapons and terrorists could be smuggled across the border, and it still wants supervision. International mediators are seeking a compromise.

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