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Israeli Forces Divide Gaza Strip - 2003-02-20


Israeli forces cut the Gaza Strip into three sections on Thursday in a second day of operations there. The action comes a day after four rockets fired from Gaza hit the Israeli town of Sderot, wounding one man.

Israel Radio said road blocks had been set up to stop the free movement of Palestinian militants inside Gaza. It also quoted a senior Palestinian official as saying that the latest Israeli raids were undermining the Palestinian Authority's efforts to stop rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on nearby Israeli cities. The Palestinian leadership, meanwhile, is urging the United Nations to condemn Israel's incursion into Gaza City late Tuesday night that left 11 Palestinians dead. The Israeli military says the operation was aimed at what it called "terrorist infrastructure." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan released a statement saying violence will not produce security or lasting peace.

Following that incursion, four rockets were launched from Gaza at the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday. One of them landed at the entrance to a factory injuring a 43-year-old worker.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed for the rocket attack and said that it was in response to the Israeli operations in Gaza over the last few days.

Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, said Hamas had suspended attacks on Israel to prove, as he put it, that 'Israel didn't need any excuse to attack us.' He said 'now all weapons and all attacks are worthy.'

Israel's Army Radio reported that Israeli troops had shot and killed an armed Palestinian in the West Bank town of Tulkarem Thursday. The report said troops returned fire after one of their patrols was fired on by gunmen.

Fifteen Palestinians, including seven unarmed civilians, were killed Wednesday in separate Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank.

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