Palestinians attack Gaza-Israel checkpoint 
Jerusalem, Feb. 9: Two armed Palestinians attacked the Erez checkpoint between Israel and Gaza before daybreak on Thursday, the military said, the latest in an escalating series of violent incidents in the volatile territory. The Palestinians threw hand grenades and opened fire on Israeli forces guarding the checkpoint, and soldiers shot the attackers, the Army said.

Israel Radio said one of the Palestinians was killed and the other wounded. There were no Israeli casualties. The popular resistance committees and Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the attack in a call to The Associated Press. The Erez checkpoint is the main crossing for thousands of Palestinian workers with jobs in Israel. Israel routinely closes the crossing after violent incidents, leaving the workers idle. On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed an armed Palestinian as he approached the Karni cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel. A second Palestinian died of his wounds on Wednesday evening, hospital officials said. Both were members of the violent Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Palestinians have stepped up rocket attacks against Israeli towns from Gaza, and Israel has increased its airstrikes, aiming at militants involved in the barrages. Over the past week, nine Gaza militants have been killed in airstrikes.

Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer, it has said it will not tolerate Palestinian attacks originating from there. Israeli artillery has been pounding northern Gaza, where militants set up and fire their homemade rockets. Also on Wednesday, demonstrations over the offensive Mohammed cartoons spread to the city of Hebron, where protesters attacked a peacekeeping force headquarters in the most violent incident to date in the West Bank. Peacekeepers sent to the volatile West Bank city of Hebron in 1994 after a massacre by a Jewish settler packed up and left after the assault.

About 60 observers, many of them Scandinavian, fled Hebron on Wednesday after about 300 Palestinian protesters overpowered their police and stormed the three-story building, breaking windows and smashing cars, while calling out slogans against the cartoons. A few broke into the building, but were repulsed by unarmed peacekeepers swinging clubs.

Hebron is a known Islamic stronghold, and the 300 protesters, most of them youths, chanted “God is great” as they attacked the peace force building in the most violent incident in the West Bank yet over the cartoons, which appeared first in a Danish newspaper. Eleven Danish members of the Temporary International Force in Hebron, or TIPH, pulled out last week, but after the attack Wednesday, all 60 members of the mission’s foreign staff who were inside the building decided to leave for their own safety, mission spokeswoman Gunhild Forselv said.

Departing mission staff hugged and kissed Palestinian staffers as they took leave. “It is a very sad day, and we hope to return as soon as possible,” Mr Forselv said.
TIPH was deployed in 1994 after Baruch Goldstein, a US-born Israeli settler, massacred 29 Palestinians at the city’s hotly contested holy site, the traditional burial cave of the biblical Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and three of their wives.


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