At least six more Palestinians were killed Friday as the Israeli military continues raiding Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank. Heavy clashes have killed at least 19 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier so far in the two day operation.
Israeli combat helicopters, tanks and soldiers continued their strikes against the Jenin and Balata refugee camps, sparking major gun battles with Palestinian militants.
Witnesses say Israeli soldiers are going from house-to-house, making arrests and searching for weapons.
It is the first time Israel has launched large attacks on refugee camps since the current conflict with the Palestinians began more than 17 months ago.
Israeli military sources say the camps have been a safe haven for terrorist organizations that produce weapons used in attacks and suicide bombings against Israelis.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres justified the incursions, saying the army is trying to "intercept human bombs before they are launched on Israel."
Public Security Minister Uzi Landau blamed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for letting the militants operate inside the camps. "Suicide bombers are continuing to be sent by Mr. Arafat and we continue to intercept them. We shall continue to combat terrorism until we totally destroy it," he said.
Mr. Arafat called the raids a "new massacre against the Palestinian people," and urged the world to stop the Israelis before "chaos engulfs the whole Middle East region."
In another incident, a seven-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli machine gun fire in the northern part of the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, a new public opinion poll published by the Ma'ariv newspaper shows for the first time a majority of Israelis 53 percent are dissatisfied with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's performance.
Commentary accompanying the survey says Mr. Sharon is caught in the middle, with right-wingers accusing him of not being tough enough on the Palestinians and left-wingers believing he has been too harsh.
More than 1,000 Palestinians and nearly 300 Israelis have died since the uprising against Israeli occupation erupted in September 2000.