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Israel Strikes Back After Weekend of Violence

Israeli helicopters fired missiles at Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah late Monday night. Arafat was not hurt in the attacks.

In a separate attack in Bethlehem, three people were injured in Israeli F-16 raids that destroyed a four-story security headquarters. The building had been evacuated in anticipation of an Israeli attack.

Palestinian security official Ahmed Abdel Rahman reacted to the recent violence by calling it a “dangerous escalation.”

Earlier, Israeli tank shells hit a pickup truck belonging to a suspected Hamas militant, Hussein Abu Kweik, in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday.

Although Kweik was not in the truck, six people were killed, including his wife and three children. The children ranged in age from 10 to 14.

“Despite the catastrophe I say to [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and to his filthy gang that our determination will not be weakened and we will keep steadfast in our land,” Kweik said in an interview with Arab news network Al-Jazeera.

Hamas claims Kweik was a member of the political, not militant, wing.

Hours earlier, Israeli troops and tanks stormed two Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, killing at least 12. The Israeli army also fired on an ambulance near the scene of the fighting in Jenin, killing a doctor and wounding three medics.

Israeli army officials said the ambulance approached an Israeli checkpoint at high speed and that soldiers opened fire, fearing the vehicle was trying to run them down.

The attacks bring the total number of Palestinians killed to at least 19 on Monday.

Weekend of violence

As the weekend drew to a close, Israel’s security Cabinet pledged to intensify retaliatory strikes after one of the most deadly spikes in the violence since the Palestinian uprising began in September, 2000.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem. Ten Israelis, including five children, were killed in the attack.

Sunday, a sniper killed seven Israeli soldiers and three civilians at an army checkpoint in the West Bank. Two other Israelis were shot in the West Bank and near the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of Israelis killed over the weekend to 22.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group linked to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement claimed responsibility for the deadliest attacks.

In a speech before Parliament Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said Israel is “in a war over our home and the war is horrible.

“But we will win and peace will come to this home,” he said.

Fighting has killed more than 100 people in the past 15 days. Since September, 2000 at least 927 Palestinians and 308 Israelis have been killed.

The killings has put in question the chances that the two sides can get together to discuss a peace plan proposed by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the rising death toll made it all the more crucial to find a way back to the negotiation table.

“I believe that when the killing is going on, it is even more urgent to intensify the search for peace. And I therefore think that the crown prince’s ideas are still very useful and should be pursued,” Annan said. “We really need to look at all creative ideas and try to help the parties come back from the brink.”

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