Israeli tanks fired on a fruit and vegetable market in the West Bank city of Jenin Friday, killing three Palestinians, including two children. The Israeli army said it mistakenly fired on the Palestinians and is investigating the incident.
The Israeli army said its troops fired two tank shells on a group of Palestinians because they thought the Palestinians were violating a curfew and advancing on them. The statement said an investigation into the incident is continuing.
Palestinian witnesses in Jenin said the three were killed as they headed to the market during a truce granted by the Israeli forces. A six-year-old boy, a seven-year-old girl and a man in his fifties were killed. Dozens more people were injured.
Just hours earlier, a Palestinian gunmen killed five Israelis - three children, their mother and a security guard - in a Jewish settlement on the West Bank. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israel responded by sending tanks into Nablus.
In an apparent retaliation for the attack on the settlement, a group of Jewish settlers drove into Nablus and opened fire, killing one man.
[In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources say a Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli fire. In a separate incident, Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinians at an industrial park near the Erez crossing between Israel and Gaza. The Israeli army says soldiers opened fire after a Palestinian threw a grenade at them.]
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with top ministers Friday and won their continued support for a decision made earlier in the week to retake and hold Palestinian-ruled land until attacks against Israel stop.
Israeli forces have entered the cities of Jenin, Qalqilya, Nablus, Bethlehem and Tulkarm.
The string of violent clashes came after a series of attacks by Palestinian militants, which have killed 31 Israelis since Tuesday.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has appealed for an end to attacks against Israeli civilians, but a number of Palestinian militant groups have vowed to continue their attacks.
Meanwhile, an Israeli newspaper says Mr. Arafat is now ready to accept a peace plan offered by former U.S. President Clinton about two years ago. Ha'aretz says the Palestinian leader now supports some exchange of land, and Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem, including the holy site of the Western Wall.
The Clinton plan also called for Palestinians to have a state on 95 percent of the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip.
The Clinton plan was endorsed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak but rejected at the time by Mr. Arafat. The government of Ariel Sharon, Mr. Barak's successor, has shown no interest in the Clinton plan.