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5 Palestinians Killed in Overnight Clashes - 2003-01-02

Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in clashes and incursions into the Gaza Strip Wednesday night and Thursday morning. In one of the incidents troops shot and killed three young Palestinian teenagers who the army said were trying to attack a Jewish settlement in northern Gaza.

It was another night of violence in the Palestinian territories. Israeli forces moved into the Nusairat and Bureij refugee camps, where Palestinian gunmen took to the streets to confront the troops as they advanced into the area with armored vehicles and bulldozers.

Israeli soldiers also entered the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. They used bulldozers to destroy several buildings, which the army said were being used by Palestinian gunmen.

The refugee camps are strongholds of Palestinian militants and Israeli incursions into the camps have become commonplace. The army also routinely demolishes the family homes of suspected Palestinian militants and suicide bombers. Israel says the measure is necessary to deter future attacks. Palestinians and human rights groups say the demolitions are a form of collective punishment and violate international law.

Wednesday night, troops shot and killed three Palestinians they said were trying to infiltrate the El Sinai settlement in northern Gaza. The three intruders turned out to be young teenagers armed with wire-cutters and a knife.

And in the small Israeli farming village of Maor, near the West Bank, a Palestinian gunman entered the home of an Israeli couple and fired off one shot. When his assault rifle jammed the couple was able to flee. The attacker was killed after a three-hour standoff with security forces.

In another development, Israeli-Arab leaders say they will call for a boycott of Israel's January 28 elections unless two Israeli-Arab legislators are allowed to run for office.

Israel's election commission has barred Amzi Bishara and his Balad party as well as Ahmed Tibi from running in the upcoming election on the grounds that both politicians support Palestinian attacks against Israel. Both deny they support terrorist activities, but also say they do support the right of a people to resist occupation.

Israel's Supreme Court is to review the election commission decision next week.