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2 Israelis, 5 Palestinians Killed in West Bank, Gaza Violence

Two Israelis and at least four Palestinians were killed in overnight violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinian gunmen attacked an army outpost on a hilltop outside the West Bank town of Nablus, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding two others. The assailants were shot dead by security forces.

Two Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade which is linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said they had carried out a joint attack.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials say an Israeli helicopter gun ship opened fire on the outskirts of Gaza City during an overnight military operation, killing two Palestinians. Local witnesses say the two men were in their early 20's and worked as nurses in a hospital and home for the elderly.

The director of the Wafa Hospital for the Elderly said the two were inside the nursing home compound when they were killed. Hospital sources also said two other Palestinians were injured.

The Israeli army said one of its helicopters had fired what it called "warning shots" as the army was withdrawing after an operation in search of a wanted militant in the area.

The latest violence comes after three Palestinians were killed in the occupied territories on Wednesday.

A Palestinian policeman was killed during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Qalqilyah. In another incident a 65-year-old woman was killed when Israeli troops blew up the home of a Palestinian militant in a Gaza refugee camp.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continues efforts to build a coalition government. Mr.Sharon's rightwing Likud party won last week's election, but fell short of the 61-seat parliamentary majority required to govern alone.

Mr. Sharon has said he wants to form a broad-based unity government with the rival left-of-center Labor party. But, Labor has so far refused the offer. Mr. Sharon might be faced with putting together a coalition with hard-line nationalist and religious parties who are in favor of even tougher measures against the Palestinians.