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Palestinian Gunmen Clash With Israeli Forces


Palestinian gunmen and Israeli forces fought each other in a clash, early Monday, at the border between the southern Gaza Strip and Israel. One Palestinian was reported killed in the incident one of a series of events in the past 24 hours that have raised tensions in the area.

It has been a surprisingly quiet period in Israel, with only scattered incidents of violence reported over the past seven days. Israeli security forces say that is because they have been successful in intercepting Palestinian militants intent on attacking Israelis.

The firefight in the southern Gaza Strip, while a reminder of the long string of violent incidents that have rocked Israel and the Palestinian territories for more than two years, was not as unnerving to Israelis as the headlines in Monday's paper that three more Israeli Arabs have been arrested and charged with terrorism.

The three men, all from East Jerusalem and all in their early 20's, are charged with planning to launch a missile at a helicopter bound for the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and of planning to set off a huge bomb near the residence of the prime minister.

They are also accused of planning bombings at several other neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Police said they found a 40-kilogram explosive charge along with two mobile telephones to detonate it. They say the explosives were bundled with several 81mm mortar shells, to increase the killing power of the device.

The arrests were announced the same day four other Israeli Arabs were convicted of carrying out a series of terror attacks that killed 35 Israelis and wounded more than 200 others. The men were given sentences ranging from 60 years to 35 consecutive life sentences.

Among the bombings attributed to the group was the March blast in Jerusalem's Moment Café that killed 11 people. Prosecutors say the group also led a suicide bomber to a pool hall in Rishon Lezion, on Israel's Mediterranean coast, last May. Fifteen people died.

The four were also convicted of the July bombing of the cafeteria at Hebrew University, which killed nine people and of trying on two occasions to derail trains with explosive charges. They are also said to have been behind two attempts to blow up fuel tanker trucks. In one of those incidents, the bomb detonated as a tanker drove into a fuel depot, north of Tel Aviv. Only one person was injured in that incident because the explosion failed to set off the tanker.

Israeli prosecutors say the men used their Israeli identity cards to move freely about the country.

There are an estimated 210,000 Israeli Arabs living and working in Jerusalem. Most of them have kept a generally-low profile since the most recent cycle of Israeli-Palestinian violence erupted, more than two years ago.

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