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Palestinians Fire Rockets After Israeli Army Operation Leaves 8 Dead - 2003-03-03

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have fired rockets at a nearby Israeli town, following an Israeli army operation in the territory during which eight Palestinians were killed.

Palestinian militants in Gaza fired homemade Kassam rockets at the town of Sderot inside Israel.

At least five people are reportedly suffering from shock in the town, which has been a frequent target of attacks like this in recent weeks.

The rocket barrage came hours after Israeli troops, backed by tanks, launched an offensive inside a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Among those Palestinians reported killed during the incursion are two civilians, one of them a pregnant woman.

The Israeli troops also arrested a founding member of the Islamic group Hamas, Sheikh Mohammed Taha.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantisi said that Mr. Taha's arrest is a big blow to the organization.

At the same time, Mr. Rantisi said the capture of his colleague will not weaken the resolve of Hamas to continue its attacks against Israel.

He told reporters that Israel would pay "a high price" for Mr. Taha's capture and the Israeli army's continuing operations in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Rantisi's warnings were echoed during a funeral procession in Gaza Monday for the eight Palestinians killed during the Israeli raid.

Thousands of people chanted "Bombings are the only option." In an address to the crowd, a Hamas activist pledged more suicide attacks that would "shake the ground beneath" the Israelis.

Monday's raid into the Gaza Strip was the second in as many days.

Israel has intensified its operations inside the territory in recent weeks, after Hamas claimed responsibility for an explosion that destroyed an Israeli tank and killed five soldiers.

Hamas has also claimed responsibility for many of the rocket attacks and suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.