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Violence Continues in Gaza Despite Palestinian Plea for Calm - 2004-10-02

Israel's military offensive continues in Gaza, despite an appeal from Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia for calm. More than 45 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in four days of bloodshed. And militants imposed a commercial strike in Gaza.

Palestinian Prime Minister Qureia held an emergency meeting with his Cabinet Saturday, as the number of casualties continues to rise in Gaza.

He appealed to all Palestinian factions, "to think about the higher national interest," and not give Israel an excuse to continue the military offensive in Gaza.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has called the Israeli military campaign in Gaza "a criminal and inhumane attack on Palestinians."

Israel sent more troops and tanks to Gaza, after militants launched a rocket attack on an Israeli border town Thursday that killed two small children.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for intensifying the military operations to stop the mortar and rocket attacks.

Israeli troops and tanks have reoccupied a nine-kilometer stretch of northern Gaza to prevent rocket attacks against Israeli border towns.

Hamas militants are threatening to fire rockets farther inside Israel, possibly targeting the industrial town of Ashkelon, located about 12 kilometers away.

A commercial strike ordered by Hamas and other groups was mostly observed in Gaza, but not in the West Bank.

Israeli government advisor Zalman Shoval says the increase in Palestinian attacks is not a surprise.

"There has been an increase in the last few days of terror activities from the Gaza Strip, which is probably due to the Israeli plan of unilateral withdrawal from Gaza," he said.

Prime Minister Sharon says he will present his disengagement plan to the parliament with the hope of moving more than 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza next year.