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Jewish Settlements Attacked as Palestinian Militants Vow to Avenge Killing of Hamas Leader - 2003-08-22

Palestinian militants carried out rocket and mortar attacks on Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and in southern Israel Thursday night and Friday morning. The attacks come as militants vowed to retaliate for Israel's killing of a senior leader of the militant group Hamas, following Tuesday's bus bombing in Jerusalem.

One of the rockets damaged a vacant house Friday morning in the Israeli town of Sderot. A salvo of rockets fired a few hours earlier left several people injured, none of them seriously.

The Jewish settlements of Neve Dekalim and Gush Katif also were hit with more than a dozen mortar rounds.

Elsewhere, Israeli troops in tanks and armored vehicles drove into Jenin overnight, the second incursion into the West Bank town in 24 hours.

Witnesses say the incursion triggered a gunfight between soldiers and Palestinian militants, but there were no reports of casualties on either side.

Israeli forces are maintaining a presence in the town of Nablus, arresting 15 Palestinians in a raid Friday morning. They also demolished the homes of three suspected terrorists in Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarem.

Israeli forces carried out similar raids in Nablus and Tulkarem on Thursday.

Twelve members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades wanted by Israel are reported to have left Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah overnight. They had been holed up there for more than a week. There was no explanation for why the men left, but Israeli media are speculating that Palestinian political leaders were afraid that their continued presence in the compound could lead to an Israeli operation to arrest them.

The Muqata compound is the residence of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Israeli incursions and the killing of Hamas leader Ismail Abu-Shanab came in response to Tuesday's suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 20 people and wounded more than 100.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.