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Nine Palestinians Wounded in Gaza Gunbattle with Israelis

At least nine Palestinians were wounded during a gun battle with Israeli soldiers as troops demolished homes in the Gaza strip. Sporadic shooting continued Friday as Israeli tanks and bulldozers moved into the Rafah refugee camp near the border with Egypt, demolishing a number of houses. Palestinian gunmen rushed to the scene and traded fire with Israeli soldiers as they leveled buildings facing a military post.

The army says the buildings in the southern Gaza Strip were being used by Palestinian snipers and weapons smugglers. Israel is building a large ditch in the area to stop the digging of tunnels across the border to smuggle in weapons.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah an explosion damaged a building near the home of Khayis Abu Leila, a leader of a militant Palestinian group. Mr. Abu Leila was not at home at the time of the blast.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which claimed responsibility for an attack that killed three Israeli soldiers last week in Gaza, called the incident an Israeli assassination attempt.

The army had no immediate comment. Neighbors said a member of the militant group Hamas who was injured in the incident may have been constructing a bomb that went off prematurely.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer has ruled out targeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Ben Eliezer told the Israeli newspaper Maariv harming Mr. Arafat would not solve the current conflict and could have a "boomerang effect."

Since the Palestinian uprising began 11-months ago, Israel has targeted more than 50 activists it says are a threat to the Jewish state. Palestinians call the operations "assassinations," and the policy has drawn widespread international condemnation.

In Jerusalem, police captured at least three Palestinians, including a man carrying a bag containing weapons. Police say they were planning a terrorist attack in the city.

Despite the violence, efforts are continuing to set up truce talks between Mr. Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The goal of such a meeting is to stop the violence and begin implementing confidence-building measures that could lead to peace talks.