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Israeli Forces Enter Cities in Gaza, 1 Palestinian Killed - 2003-01-12

Israeli forces shot and killed one Palestinian and wounded 14 in exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen early Sunday during incursions into the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said dozens of tanks entered the southern city of Khan Younis after midnight, destroying a house and a metal workshop before withdrawing. Israel says the metal workshops that are so often their targets, are used by Palestinian militants to make rockets and mortars for use against Israel.

Israeli tanks also entered the town of Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza where two houses were destroyed. One of them belonged to an Islamic Jihad militant who was killed in an attack on an Israeli Navy patrol boat several months ago. Israel says it destroys the family homes of militants as a deterrent to future attacks on Israeli civilians. Human rights groups describe the policy as collective punishment and a violation of international law.

Meanwhile, an 8- year-old Palestinian boy and his 13-year-old brother were shot and wounded Saturday night in a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. Israel says the boys were armed with knives when they infiltrated the Netzarim settlement.

According to settlers, the two were fired on by a settler after they tried to attack his son. One of the Palestinian boys was wounded and the other entered the home of the settlement's rabbi who opened fire sending him fleeing from the house.

Israel says both boys are undergoing medical treatment in southern Israel.

The latest violence occurred less than a day after Palestinian leaders issued a statement urging all Palestinians to halt attacks against Israeli civilians in the run-up to Israeli parliamentary elections on January 28.