Arafat accuses Israel as three more die

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Israeli troops shot dead three Palestinians today, and Yasser Arafat accused Israel of stepping up military actions a day after he made a strong appeal for an end to fighting in the Middle East.

There were repeated confrontations on the day after the Palestinian leader demanded that militants halt suicide bombings and all other "terrorist activity" against Israel. In addition to the shootings, Israeli police briefly detained Sari Nusseibeh, a prominent Palestinian official known for his advocacy of peace with Israel, while he was holding a Muslim holiday reception in Jerusalem.

In the Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a 12-year-old boy, a Palestinian doctor said. He said there were no clashes at the time. The Israeli military was checking.

In a shooting in Hebron, the Israeli forces attempted to arrest a member of the Hamas movement, Yacoub Aidkadik, 28, at his home, the army said. Aidkadik tried to flee, and soldiers told him to stop. He kept running and was shot dead, the army added.

Mr Arafat said: "I am sorry to say that still the Israelis are escalating their military activities."

In a further shooting, Israeli soldiers at a post fired on two plainclothes Palestinian policemen in an unmarked car near Nablus, killing one policeman and wounding the second, Palestinians said. An Israeli military source said only that the soldiers fired on two armed Palestinians.

The Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, said Arafat appeared to be serious, but added: "We'll wait a few days to see what happens."