Six killed in latest Israeli retaliations

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The Independent Online

Six Palestinians have been killed as Israel continued its incursions into West Bank villages, following two days of air strikes on Palestinian buildings in retaliation for Palestinian attacks.

Six Palestinians have been killed as Israel continued its incursions into West Bank villages, following two days of air strikes on Palestinian buildings in retaliation for Palestinian attacks.

During the morning, Israeli tanks and troops moved into three large West Bank villages - Dura, near Hebron, and Salfit and Assira Ashmalia, near Nablus. Israeli forces searched the villages and made arrests. Six Palestinian policemen were killed in clashes in Salfit, Palestinians doctors said.

The Israelis arrested 20 people in Salfit and 10 in Dura, Palestinian security officials said. Salfit is in a Palestinian-controlled area. Dura and Assira Ashmalia are under joint Israel-Palestinian control. The Israelis destroyed two houses in Salfit, Palestinians said.

In a statement, the Israeli military said soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians in Salfit, killing five and wounding four and making arrests. In Assira Ashmalia, the military said it arrested 13 Palestinians. The statement said Israeli forces also arrested a Hamas activist in Dura and another in Hebron.

In Gaza, Palestinians said Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered a refugee camp across from a bloc of Israeli settlements and destroyed 10 houses and a factory. Three people were hurt, one seriously. The Israeli military said its forces destroyed a number of buildings to reduce gunfire at the settlements.

US envoy Anthony Zinni met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon late on Thursday, seeking clarifications about how an Israeli Security Cabinet decision to stop contacts with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority will affect his cease-fire talks.

Israel Radio reported that Zinni planned to issue a statement later on Friday, outlining ideas for stopping the violence. US embassy spokesman Paul Patin could not confirm the report.

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