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Gaza Clashes Leave 8 Palestinians Dead

Palestinian sources say at least eight Palestinians have been killed and more than 30 others wounded during an Israeli military incursion into the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli troops, tanks and armored vehicles swept into the Rafah refugee camp Tuesday, in what the Israeli Army says is part of ongoing efforts to find and destroy arms smuggling tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip.

Tuesday's death toll is the highest since Israeli raids on refugee camps in October killed 14 Palestinians.

On Monday, the Israeli army said two Israeli officers and a Palestinian militant were killed during a clash at Kissufim Junction in the central part of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says the militant was shot dead after he threw a grenade at the Army outpost, killing the two soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Patriarch of the Holy Land, Michel Sabbah, has appealed to Palestinians and Israelis to make peace and end the suffering of both peoples. In his Christmas message, the Palestinian clergyman urged both sides to negotiate a settlement under a land for peace formula.

And Israeli police say they have arrested at least five Palestinians in connection with Monday's assault on Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque. Mr. Maher was shoved and jostled, but not injured, by a crowd angry over the Egyptian offical's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the stalled Middle East peace talks.

The Egyptian foreign minister, who returned to Cairo late Monday, says the assault will not affect his "determination" to work for peace and the rights of the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority and the Egyptian government both condemned the incident.