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Israeli Forces Battle Militants in Southern Gaza; 4 Palestinians Killed


Israeli troops raided the Gaza Strip Sunday, triggering a battle with Palestinian militants that killed three gunmen and one civilian.

Israel's military says the soldiers entered southern Gaza before dawn to combat militants who fire rockets and mortars at Israel. Israel also used tanks and aircraft in the fighting, which wounded at least eight Palestinians and one Israeli soldier.

Israeli troops detained at least 25 Palestinians during the operation.

In another development, Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Tuesday in Jerusalem. Israel has not confirmed the date. The two leaders have met regularly since restarting peace talks last November.

Mr. Olmert said Sunday that he and Mr. Abbas had agreed to put off talks on the status of Jerusalem until the end of the negotiating process. The Israeli prime minister described Jerusalem as the most difficult issue facing negotiators.

Mr. Olmert says his goal is to sign a declaration of principles with Mr. Abbas' government by the end of this year.

The Israeli prime minister also vowed to keep reducing electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza until Palestinians end rocket attacks on Israel.

U.N. humanitarian official John Holmes condemned the rocket fire Sunday as he visited Sderot, the Israeli town that has borne the brunt of the attacks. He also noted that people in Gaza are suffering and urged Israel to respond to the rockets in a proportionate way.

After the U.N. official left, a rocket struck a house in Sderot, but caused no casualties.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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