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Fierce Battle Follows Israeli Incursion into West Bank - 2001-10-05

At least six Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded Friday when Israeli troops raided Palestinian neighborhoods in the West Bank.

Israeli tanks and soldiers attacked Palestinian neighborhoods in the volatile West Bank City of Hebron. The incursion sparked a fierce battle between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops. Witnesses say Israeli soldiers fired tank shells and heavy machine guns during the fighting.

Soldiers clamped a curfew on the area and a statement from the Israeli army says troops will remain in Palestinian-controlled areas for a "limited period."

The army says it launched the incursion following "continuous shooting" at large crowds of Israelis visiting the city to celebrate a Jewish holiday. Two Israelis were wounded earlier this week.

A Palestinian leader in Hebron, Abbas Zaki, denounced the raid, calling it a "new crime" by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Mr. Zaki says it is impossible to enforce a ceasefire while Israeli soldiers are attacking Palestinian neighborhoods. "It is very difficult to be under control during occupation and the military operation, which is going on now," he said. "They destroyed the houses and killed the people, therefore nobody can have enough control to stop, to cease fire."

Mr. Zaki vowed that the Palestinians will fight the incursion and called on the "world to provide international protection for the Palestinian people."

Israel handed over parts of Hebron to Palestinian rule under interim peace agreements in 1997. About 400 Jewish settlers live among 120,000 Palestinians in Hebron, which has been a flashpoint for violence.

The city is holy to Muslims and Jews and is the traditional burial site for the biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In other violence Friday, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli man in a drive-by shooting near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.

Both Israel and the Palestinians announced a truce agreement last week, but it has been shattered by daily attacks and exchanges of gunfire.

The United States and other nations have been urging both sides to end more than a year of fighting as America recruits Arab and Islamic nations into an anti-terror coalition following the attacks in New York and Washington.