Israeli troops shot dead five Palestinian civilians, and injured 16 in attacks in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Thursday. The attacks came on "Nakba", the day Palestinians mark as the anniversary of the loss of their homeland 55 years ago.
|Israel's early morning attack left|
About 30 armoured vehicles backed by Apache helicopters hovering overhead launched the first attack on the town of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip.
Israel said the raid was an attempt to end alleged Palestinian mortar bomb attacks on nearby Jewish outposts.
Israeli bulldozers destroyed five homes and uprooted olive trees. Surrounding homes were also damaged in the attack.
Aljazeera's correspondent in the area said troops opened fire and stormed homes in search of Palestinian activists.
Israeli tanks also rumbled into the heart of the occupied West Bank town of Tulkaram, injuring at least three people and demolishing a home.
In a village near Tulkaram Israeli troops destroyed a house belonging to a Palestinian activist.
Israeli troops also shot and wounded a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank town of Qalqilya.
North of Tulkarim, Israeli soldiers stormed the Jenin refugee camp and detained three Palestinians.
Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers used women and children as human shields to storm several homes in the camp in search of activists resisting Israel’s occupation.
The Israeli rights group B'Tselem denounced the use of civilians as human shields. Israeli army officials denied the allegation.
The death toll continues to climb
after Israel's raid
The latest violence coincides with the Palestinians’ 55th anniversary of the “Nakba” or catastrophe.
The day marks the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes for the creation of Israel in 1948.
Nakba commemorations will be held across the occupied Palestinian territories.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said there was a "conspiracy" against Palestinian peace efforts, in a speech delivered on the grim occasion.
Arafat was speaking from his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Blow to “road map”
The Israeli violence is seen by many analysts as another blow to Washington’s “road map” aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Israelis and Palestinians must be ready to make compromises for peace.
The Palestinian leadership has accepted the map but Israel has expressed opposition to a number of points.
Powell, speaking from Bulgaria, said upcoming meetings between the two sides would be "important".
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to discuss his opposition to the plan next week when he meets US President George W. Bush in Washington.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas will hold talks with Sharon on Saturday to discuss the US-backed plan.