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Israeli Troops Sweep Through Gaza City

Israeli troops and tanks backed by helicopters, swept through a suburb of Gaza city early Thursday, killing at least six Palestinians, including two children. At least six Israeli soldiers were also reported wounded in the ensuing firefight with Palestinian gunmen. The violence came just hours after both Israel and the Palestinians were presented with the latest international peace plan.

The aim of the operation, which began in the early morning hours Thursday, was to find a Hamas militant in a suburb of Gaza city.

Israeli military sources say troops were sent in against what they call terrorist infrastructure. The area is a stronghold of Hamas, the group which has carried out many of the suicide bomb attacks against Israel in recent months.

Local witnesses say the raid triggered a fierce firefight between Palestinian gunmen and the Israeli soldiers. Palestinian sources say among those killed were a toddler and a teenage boy.

In the West Bank, Palestinian reports say Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians south of Hebron. Israeli troops also arrested more than a dozen suspected militants during security sweeps in Nablus, Qalqilya, Hebron and Bethlehem.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat accused Israel of responding to international peace efforts with more violence.

The latest raids and clashes came just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas were presented with the so-called road map, a peace plan backed by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

The plan envisions an eventual peace agreement under a two-state solution -- a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state side by side.

However, many here say that the Palestinian suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv early Wednesday, before the unveiling of the plan and Thursday morning's Israeli raids in Gaza and the West Bank, do not augur well for the implementation of the peace plan.