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Angry Palestinians Attend Funerals - 2001-08-01


At least 100,000 angry Palestinians gathered in the West Bank town of Nablus for the funerals of eight people killed in an attack Tuesday by Israeli helicopter gun ships.

Firing guns into the air and shouting for revenge, a huge crowd of Palestinians attended the funerals of six members of the Islamic group Hamas and two children killed in a raid by Israeli combat helicopters.

Banners from Palestinian parties and militant groups flew over a large procession that carried the flag-draped bodies through the streets of Nablus.

Passionate speeches calling for Jihad, or holy war, against Israel were punctuated by automatic weapons fire.

Women and children screamed and cried as militants vowed to continue the uprising against Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories.

The United States and other countries harshly condemned the Israeli attack. A U.S. State Department spokesman called the air strike "excessive" and "highly provocative."

United Nations Middle East envoy Terje Larsen says, "such actions are almost guaranteed to lead to a further escalation of tension."

Israeli officials defended the action, saying the Hamas members have carried out acts of terror in the past, and were planning additional attacks in the future.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed regret that the two children were killed in the air strike.

The main target of the operation was apparently Jamal Mansour, a top leader of Hamas, which opposes any peace negotiations with Israel.

Israel charged that Jamal Mansour was part of the Hamas leadership that planned and carried out a number of attacks, including a suicide bombing last June in Tel Aviv that killed more than 20 Israelis.

In other violence, masked men near Bethlehem executed a Palestinian with a bullet to the head for alleged collaboration with Israel.

In Nablus, a Palestinian court condemned three men to die for collaborating with Israel in connection with the killing last year of a senior official from President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Israeli security forces remain on high alert, saying that they have received numerous warnings of new suicide and car bombings.

Prime Minister Sharon met with top cabinet ministers as Israel braces for revenge attacks.

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