The latest victim on Wednesday was Muhammad al-Hamaidi, 20, who was killed by a bullet to the chest fired by troops operating in the town's refugee camp.

His death brought the overall toll since the start of the Palestinian uprising for independence in September 2000 to 3760, including 2817 Palestinians and 875 Israelis.

"The Ezz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades called on its cells to carry out large-scale attacks against Israel in retaliation for the Israeli penetration," reported our correspondent.

Looking for activists

Medics said more than 50 people were injured in the two raids, at least eight of them seriously.

Also on Wednesday, Israeli occupation troops, backed by military vehicles, surrounded a house in the al-Shujaiya area, claiming wanted activists were hiding inside, Aljazeera's correspondent said.

The forces then took up position on the rooftops of a number of surrounding homes, randomly opening fire, the correspondent added.

Action condemned

Uraiqat described the latest
killings as a 'massacre'

The latest Israeli raids provoked an angry reaction from Palestinian negotiations minister Saib Uraiqat, currently in Italy with Palestinian premier Ahmad Quraya, who is visiting to rally opposition to Israel's controversial separation barrier.

"We strongly condemn this aggression, this massacre, while efforts are being made to revive the peace process," he told AFP by phone from Rome.
 
"We urgently call on the quartet to come forward and work on pushing the peace process forward and help in bringing out these efforts."
 
He was referring to the diplomatic quartet of officials from the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, who co-sponsored the Middle East peace roadmap.

Grave magnitude

Israeli troops demolished homes
during the raid in Rafah

Meanwhile, thousands of homes in Rafah have been demolished due to ongoing raids and the lives of thousands of ordinary Palestinians have been disrupted as never before, said the correspondent.

"We are talking about a tragedy of a very grave magnitude. The Israeli army uses strategies that result in the area looking like the aftermath of a powerful earthquake."

Late last month, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian civilian woman during a massive invasion into Rafah. Another five civilians, including teenagers, were injured, according to witnesses and medical sources.

A day before that, Israeli bulldozers demolished a mosque and 13 Palestinian homes in a similar raid.