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Israeli Troops Kill 3 Palestinians in Gaza Strip - 2003-05-12

Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip Monday, after imposing a tight closure on the territory. The latest violence came despite appeals by visiting Secretary of State Colin Powell for the two sides to end the bloodshed.

Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians early Monday, as they reportedly attempted to plant an explosive device in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, not far from the Egyptian border. During the raid into Rafah, Israeli officials say the soldiers uncovered tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt into Gaza.

Elsewhere in Gaza, witnesses say Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian farm worker who was tilling a field near an army lookout post close to the town of Khan Younis.

The violence followed Israel's decision to re-impose a closure on Gaza, amid warnings that Palestinian groups are planning a wave of suicide bombings.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, Israel arrested a Palestinian youth who, the army says, planned to carry out a suicide attack.

The sealing of Gaza came just 24 hours after Israel announced it was lifting its blockade of Gaza and the West Bank as part of good-will measures toward the Palestinians. The measures were introduced during the two-day visit of Secretary of State Powell to Israel and the West Bank.

Mr. Powell urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to adopt a new road map to peace plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Israeli media reported Monday that Mr. Powell secured agreement during his visit for a meeting this week between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his new Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas.

The planned meeting would come just days before Mr. Sharon is due to travel to Washington for talks with President Bush at the White House.