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Hamas Vows Revenge For Killing of Palestinian Civilians - 2002-08-29

The militant Islamic group Hamas is vowing to launch a wave of attacks to avenge the killing of four Palestinian civilians by Israeli tank fire. Israel has expressed sorrow over the deaths and has ordered an investigation into the incident.

Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar says that Israel can expect more attacks, following the killing of four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He says that when Palestinian civilians are dying, Israel should know that its citizens will also be killed.

The four Palestinians, including a mother and two of her sons, were killed when Israeli tank shells hit in Sheikh Ajli, south of Gaza City.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer ordered an investigation into the incident and admitted Israel's responsibility. He expressed sorrow over the killing of "innocent Palestinians… by fire from the Israeli Defense Forces."

For the past two days, Israel has been deploying army, naval and air forces to foil what it says is a suspected Palestinian attempt to smuggle arms into Gaza by sea.

Israeli tanks moved into Palestinian territory near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, cutting off a main road, and Israeli gunboats patrolled the coastline.

Earlier, one Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces near the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements, also in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, Israel called off high-level talks with Palestinian officials on a security plan, citing continuing violence in the territory.

Mr. Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says he expects the Palestinians to be vigorous in halting "terrorism and violence, as well as smuggling [of arms] by sea and on land".

A spokesman for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat accused Israel of abandoning an agreement to withdraw its troops from Palestinian self-rule areas.