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Israeli Air Raid in Gaza Kills Two Palestinians

From Times Wire Services

Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said, the first deadly attack there since Israel declared a “no-go” zone last week to try to stop Palestinian rocket barrages.

Relatives said the two were members of the same family, and one was in the Palestinian security forces. The Israeli military said it hit a cell of Palestinians preparing to fire a rocket.

The Palestinian Authority’s Interior Ministry issued a statement condemning the Israeli strike, saying a shell hit a Palestinian post, hindering police efforts to stop militants from firing a rocket at Israel.

Mushir Masri, a spokesman for the militant group Hamas, threatened revenge against Israel. But he did not rule out extending a truce declared in February. The truce expired at the end of the year.

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Israel has demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas disarm gunmen as a condition to renewing negotiations on the U.S.-sponsored “road map” peace plan. Abbas vowed Saturday to impose law and order, after the kidnapping of three Britons and a surge of Palestinian unrest.

Palestinian militants, frustrated over poverty and alleged corruption within Abbas’ Fatah party and security forces, have kidnapped foreigners and briefly seized government buildings in recent months, demanding jobs.

“It is time to impose the authority of law and order,” Abbas said in a New Year’s message broadcast on Palestinian television.

“These events ... harm our international credibility and strengthen Israel’s pretext to undermine peace and stop withdrawals.”

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Fatah faces a strong challenge from Hamas in Jan. 25 legislative elections.

Israel and the United States object to the militant group’s participation in the polls.


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