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Israel Launches New Raids on Palestinian Territories - 2004-03-19


Israeli troops launched new raids into Gaza and the West Bank against suspected Palestinian militants on Friday, as part of efforts to prevent more suicide bombings.

Israeli soldiers searching for wanted Palestinians met with fierce resistance during new operations in Gaza on Friday.

Palestinian militants detonated a bomb, overturning an Israeli tank near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in central Gaza.

The Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the bomb, which it said was aimed at countering the Israeli offensive.

The Israeli operation in Gaza was launched in response to Sunday's double suicide bombing in the southern port of Ashdod that killed 11 Israelis.

Hamas, which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, also claimed responsibility for that attack.

In a Palestinian village in central Gaza on Friday, Israel arrested two members of the organization and also demolished the family home of a Hamas official.

During the raid, Palestinian youths hurled pipe bombs at the troops.

In a separate operation in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israel also destroyed the house of a leader of the Tanzim, an armed wing of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Israeli army officials say the man was responsible for a suicide bombing against an Israeli settlement in the West Bank two years ago.

The Israeli army also says a Fatah cell masterminded two suicide bombings against buses in Jerusalem this year, and had also planned to hijack two buses in the city and try to exchange the passengers for Palestinian prisoners.

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