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Israeli Security Sweeps Leave 3 Palestinians Dead


At least three Palestinians were killed and several injured during Israeli security sweeps in the Gaza Strip overnight. The operation comes as Israel steps up its search for Palestinian militants following Sunday night's twin suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed 22 people and injured another 100.

According to Israeli media, a force of border police and an elite infantry unit entered the al-Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza shortly before midnight. A three-hour gunbattle ensued when dozens of armed Palestinian militants took to the streets, heeding a call from the mosque's loudspeakers to defend the camp.

An exchange of fire was also reported near Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

In the West Bank, more than 20 suspected militants were reported detained, and soldiers also blew up the homes of two senior militants near Nablus.

The Israeli army has routinely blown up the family homes of suicide bombers and suspected militants since last year, when it renewed its policy of demolitions. The army says the practice is needed as a deterrent. The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled the policy is legal. But, Palestinians and human rights groups say it amounts to "collective punishment" and violates international law.

The overnight operations came as Israel continued to step up the pressure on Palestinians following Sunday night's suicide bombings in Tel Aviv.

During a meeting of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's security cabinet, the government decided to intensify its search for militants and step up targeted killings of wanted Palestinians.

It also issued a travel ban, preventing senior Palestinian leaders from attending an important political meeting scheduled for this week in Ramallah and preventing a Palestinian delegation from traveling to London for a meeting next week on Palestinian reforms.

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