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Thousands of Palestinians Attend Hamas Leader's Funeral, Vow to Avenge his Death - 2003-08-22

Tens of thousands of angry Palestinians turned out in the streets of the Gaza Strip for the funeral of the senior Hamas leader killed in an Israeli missile strike Thursday.

Huge crowds thronged Gaza City as Ismail Abu Shanab was carried through the narrow streets, his body wrapped in a green Hamas flag.

Armed men fired automatic weapons into the air as the crowd angrily called to avenge his death.

Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantizi addressed the crowd saying the militants embrace martyrdom and even if Israel succeeds in killing more Hamas leaders others will arise to take their place.

Israeli troops closed the main highway through the Gaza Strip in two places. Israel had removed the roadblocks only last month as part of confidence-building measures aimed at moving the peace process forward.

Thursday night and Friday morning, Palestinians fired homemade rockets and mortar shells at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and into southern Israel, causing some damage and a few minor injuries.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops backed by tanks rolled into the West Bank city of Jenin late Thursday - a second incursion into the city in the past 24 hours.

Troops arrested 15 Palestinians in a raid in Nablus Friday morning. They also destroyed the homes in Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem of three men who carried out terrorist attacks.

The sharp escalation of violence follows a suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem Tuesday that killed 20 people. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that attack.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to use the security forces under his control to help Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas dismantle militant groups.

For the past year the United States has not dealt with Mr. Arafat, saying he had been tarnished by terrorism.

In another development, 12 members of the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by Israel are reported to have left the Ramallah compound of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat overnight. Israeli media reports say the men moved out to avoid a possible Israeli raid on the compound to arrest them.