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At Least 11 Dead in Israeli-Palestinian Clashes - 2003-01-12

Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians have left at least 11 people dead.

Israel says a Palestinian gunman infiltrated an Israeli village just after nightfall near the border with the West Bank, where he shot and killed an Israeli.

Military sources said the infiltrator entered the Israeli village of Gadish, about four-kilometers from the line that separates Israel from the West Bank. Two border police were wounded in exchanges of gunfire in the village.

In the south, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians they said had infiltrated across the Egyptian border near the town of Nitzana. One Israeli soldier was wounded in the exchange of fire.

Hours earlier, Israeli helicopters fired two missiles at two vehicles between Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Witnesses said the gunships missed the vehicles, but killed two teenage boys walking nearby.

Palestinians charged that Israel was stepping up its attacks to distract voters from election-related scandals, while Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said again that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is an "obstacle to peace."

Mr. Sharon dismissed Saturday's appeal by Palestinian officials for a halt to attacks on Israeli civilians as an attempt to influence the January 28 parliamentary elections.

He also rejected a plea from British Prime Minister Tony Blair to lift a ban on Palestinian officials attending a Mideast conference this week in London. The plea was in a letter delivered by the British ambassador to Israel.