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Israeli Forces Raid 2 Gaza Refugee Camps, 8 Palestinians Reported Dead - 2003-03-03

Palestinians say at least eight people have been killed and nearly 40 wounded during an overnight raid by Israeli forces on two refugee camps in the central Gaza Strip. A 13-year-old boy and a woman were among the dead.

Palestinian witnesses say the young boy was shot during a firefight that broke out when dozens of Israeli tanks and armored vehicles rolled into the El Bureij and Nusairat camps early Monday.

Witnesses say the body of a pregnant woman was pulled from the rubble of a house blown up by Israeli troops. Israeli forces destroyed at least one other home during the incursion. Several leaders of the militant group Hamas are reported to have been arrested, including Mohammed Taha one of the founders of Hamas. The Israeli military says they found a belt rigged with explosives that they say was intended for use by a suicide bomber in the Taha home.

Reports said the fighting in Gaza was especially fierce. The army said Palestinians used grenades and other explosives, including one 100-kilogram bomb. Two Israeli soldiers were reported to have been lightly wounded in the action.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli troops are reported to have taken over some buildings and arrested several suspected Palestinian militants in Nablus. In Jenin, troops destroyed two homes belonging to a militant suspected of an attack against Israelis last May.

On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz vowed to intensify pressure on the militant group Hamas in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Three Palestinians were killed Sunday in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza when Israeli troops moved in to demolish buildings believed to be used by snipers firing at Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.

Israel has staged a number of raids in the Gaza Strip since a bomb attack last month that destroyed a tank and killed four soldiers. The Hamas group said its fighters carried out the attack.