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Palestinian Militants Vow Revenge for Israeli Killing of 15 - 2004-03-08


Palestinian militants are vowing revenge for Sunday's Israeli raids on two refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, which left 15 Palestinians dead, including four children. Hospital sources say dozens of Palestinians were injured in the raids.

A statement by the group Hamas says Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will pay a heavy price for the raids on the al-Bureij and Nusseirat refugee camps.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined funeral processions late Sunday for those killed. In new violence Monday, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli troops near a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip. Palestinian witnesses said the boy was killed while working in his father's fields near the Morag settlement. The Army says it is investigating the shooting.

Sunday's raids in Gaza were the bloodiest in over a year. Israeli troops, tanks and helicopters moved into the camps before dawn in what the military says was a pre-emptive strike against terrorist groups. Hours of fierce clashes followed between the soldiers and armed Palestinian militants. Children were also out in the streets, throwing stones at the Israeli tanks and several were killed.

Israeli army spokeswoman, Major Sharon Feingold told Israel Radio the children's deaths are regrettable.

"Every loss of human life - innocent civilians killed - is a tragedy on both sides and should not be happening," she said. "The only person to blame here is the Palestinian leadership who've done absolutely nothing to stop these kinds of terror attacks from originating from within the heart of the civilian population."

Palestinian Authority adviser Nabil Abu Rdeineh denounced Sunday's raids and called for international intervention.

"This policy is not going to lead anywhere apart from more violence and more instability and we urge the quartet and the Security Council to move quickly to stop this Israeli aggression for this aggression will lead for more violence in the whole region," he said.

The Israeli military called the operation a success and said such raids will continue in order to root out the militant threat and have nothing to do with a possible future Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Sharon has said Israel would evacuate most if not all of its settlements and pull out its troops from the Gaza Strip if peace talks with the Palestinians continue to go nowhere.

The recent upsurge in violence in Gaza is seen by some as an effort by both sides to gain the advantage prior to an Israeli withdrawal. The Israelis want to inflict as much damage on the militant groups as possible and keep them from claiming victory if Israel pulls out. The militants, on the other hand, want to be seen as having chased the Israelis out.

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