At least three Palestinians and one Israeli are dead in continuing clashes in the Middle East. The Israeli military has launched new raids into Palestinian-controlled territory.

Israeli tanks and troops moved into the Rafah area of the southern Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and destroying police posts.

Brief incursions by the Israeli military were also reported in refugee camps in Gaza and in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Another Palestinian was killed when shots were fired at a car on a West Bank road northeast of Jerusalem. Police are investigating reports that Israelis carried out the ambush.

Near the West Bank town of Tulkarm, a Palestinian man identified as a farmer was killed by Israeli troops.

An Israeli truck driver was reportedly shot and killed near the West Bank town of Nablus.

Israeli tanks and soldiers continue to occupy positions in the Palestinian-ruled town of Beit Jala, after mortar shells and gunfire were directed at the adjacent Jewish community of Gilo.

Israel says troops will remain in Beit Jala as long as Palestinian gunmen continue firing at Gilo, which is built on disputed land captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.

The Israelis set up positions in several buildings, including one owned by the Lutheran Church. The church compound contains an orphanage housing about 45 children.

Many residents of Beit Jala left the town ahead of the Israeli incursion. Those who stayed are being kept indoors by a curfew.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke by telephone several times with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat reportedly appealing for a cease-fire in Beit Jala.

Palestinian officials confirmed the conversations, saying Mr. Arafat urged Israel to withdraw immediately from the area.

The Israeli takeover of parts of Beit Jala marked the first time in 11 months of fighting that troops remained in Palestinian-controlled territory for more than a few hours.

The United States and other countries criticized the operation and urged Israel to pull its forces out of Beit Jala.

More than 750 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed since the uprising against Israeli occupation erupted last September.