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Israeli Town Targeted During Visit by Sharon

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Islamic militants launched rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot during a visit there Tuesday by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, despite Israeli military moves to prevent such attacks.

The five rockets landed no closer than a mile to Sharon, and only one injury was reported. The Hamas group claimed responsibility.

Sharon visited Sderot a day after a rocket exploded near a nursery school there, killing a 3-year-old boy and a 49-year-old man. They were the first people to be killed in Israel by a rocket in nearly four years of violence.

Israel responded Monday by sending more than 25 tanks and armored personnel carriers into the northeastern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, perhaps for a prolonged period, commanders said. The town is near Sderot and is a regular launching ground for rockets.

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Bulldozers tore up Beit Hanoun’s main road in the eighth major Israeli military operation there since the outbreak of fighting in 2000. Troops advanced about 700 yards into the town, meeting no armed resistance, only sporadic stone-throwing by teenagers, residents said. A hospital said 17 of the youths were wounded by army fire.

In anticipation of some Israeli action, Beit Hanoun residents had hurried to shop for provisions and fortify their homes against stray bullets.


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