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Jewish Settler Killed in Attack Near Ramallah

Palestinian gunmen have shot dead an Israeli man and wounded his pregnant wife in an ambush in the West Bank. The armed wing of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli couple had been driving north of the West Bank city of Ramallah when their car came under fire.

Shalom Har-Melech, 25, from the Jewish settlement of Homesh, died at the scene. His wife Limor, 24, who is seven months pregnant, suffered gunshot wounds to the face and arms, and was reported to be in a serious condition.

Police found 24 bullet casings from a Kalashnikov rifle at the site of the ambush.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a militia from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, announced that it was behind the attack.

The ambush came as Israel stepped up its efforts to stop Palestinian militants launching more rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Israeli troops entered the town of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza for the second day in a row.

Soldiers, operating bulldozers and tanks uprooted trees and flattened farming areas, which Israel says served as cover for Palestinian militants to fire home-made Kassam rockets.

The operations are in response to the firing of one Kassam rocket on Thursday that landed in the coastal city of Ashkelon, north of the Gaza Strip. The attack was the deepest strike yet by Palestinians into Israel.

Israel blames Hamas for the rocket attacks and Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has warned that his defense forces have been given orders to take all necessary steps to counter such threats.

Late Thursday, the Israeli air force killed a leading activist from Hamas, in a strike in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas issued a statement saying that the activist had been responsible for rocket attacks against Israel and the organization would take action to avenge his death.