Umar Muhammad Abu Zraihan was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital after being shot in the head during the early morning incursion in the Brazil neighbourhood, witnesses said.

Around 15 armoured vehicles had entered Rafah, which was the scene of a major Israeli offensive around a month ago.

It was a day marked with many invasions and much violence as a 26-year-old member of the Palestinian movement Hamas was shot dead in clashes with Israeli troops taking part in a major offensive in the northern Gaza Strip, medical sources said on Thursday.

Ismail Nabhan was killed in exchanges of fire around Jabalia, next to the town of Bait Hanun, where soldiers are involved in a large-scale invasion.

Wednesday night gunfight

He was killed in a gunfight on Wednesday night but his body was not delivered to the local hospital until Thursday morning.

Bait Hanun has been the scene
of a large-scale invasion

The latest deaths bring the overall toll since the September 2000 outbreak of the Palestinian intifada to 4,140, including 3,145 Palestinians and 923 Israelis, according to an AFP count.

In Nablus, residents said troops moved again into the city's old town, or casbah, closing its entrances and taking over a number of houses in a search for Palestinian fighters.

And in Jericho, hundreds of Israeli occupation troops, backed by tanks, armoured personnel carriers and helicopter gunships, stormed the small Palestinian town, according to witnesses.

Streets, infrastructure destroyed

Jericho City officials told Aljazeera.net on Thursday that tanks were destroying street embankments and infrastructure and helicopters were hovering over the city.

"They came to terrorise the city, it seems they can't bear seeing Palestinians enjoy any modicum of quiet or have some mental equanimity," said Wisam Shweiky, a spokesman for the Jericho municipality.

He said Israeli soldiers were arresting local youths on suspicion of association with Palestinian resistance groups as snipers were posted on strategic rooftops overlooking main streets.

Unconfirmed reports spoke of between 30-40 Palestinians arrested throughout the city and at least one house badly damaged.

The army reportedly isolated the oasis border town, cutting it off from other towns and villages.

Traffic at stand-still

Traffic to the nearby border-crossing between Jordan and the West Bank was also brought to a halt as a result of the early morning invasion.

Israeli soldiers control all border-
crossings at the West Bank

Israel tightly controls all border-crossings to and from the West Bank, barring hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from travelling abroad.

An Israeli army spokesman said the "foray" in Jericho was aimed at apprehending "possible terrorists," a reference to Palestinian resistance activists fighting Israel's decades-old occupation of Palestine.

The Israeli army, which reoccupied all former Palestinian autonomous enclaves in the West Bank more than two years ago, carries out routine and almost daily invasions of Palestinian population centres, often terrorising inhabitants and disrupting their daily life.

The Israeli army insists the operations, usually accompanied by intensive firing from heavy machine guns and loud explosions, are aimed at arresting or assassinating suspected guerillas.

Excessive force used

However, Israeli sources have recently revealed that the army resorted to using excessive and disproportionate power against Palestinian residential areas for the purpose of "burning into their consciousness" and "making them internalise their weakness and come to terms with Israeli strength and superiority."

On Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that much of army "activities" against Palestinians had no "operational or professional justification" and that their main goal was to inflict suffering on ordinary civilians for the purpose of bringing the Palestinian society to its knees.

In this context, it was also revealed that the Israeli army fired more than 1,300,000 bullets and projectiles on Palestinian towns and villages in the first few days of the intifada.

Israel also used F-16s fighter jets, apache helicopter gunships, dart bombs and other kinds of lethal and deadly weapons against Palestinian population centres, killing thousands and maiming more.

The excessive use of power against the mainly unprotected and defenceless Palestinian population centres played a decisive role in the growing human bombing phenomenon.

Bomber's motivation

Last year, a study published by the Israeli army concluded that Palestinian bombers were motivated more by Israeli repression than by religious zeal.

US-made Apaches frequently attack
Palestinian towns and villages

The Jericho invasion coincides with a large Israeli army operation in northern Gaza where Israeli bulldozers reportedly uprooted and utterly destroyed thousands of citrus and olive trees, thus denying many Palestinian farmers of the main source of their livelihood.

The Israeli army routinely resorts to collective punishments when Palestinian resistance groups carry out attacks inside Israel.

Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the Israeli army has destroyed over half a million Palestinian trees, creating what a former British politician called, ‘environmental genocide’.

The former official, Ian Gilmor, who served in the Margaret Thatcher government, expressed his shock at seeing the scope of destruction committed by the Israeli army.

"The Israelis used to boast of turning the desert into bloom. Now they can boast of reducing the previously blooming Palestinian orchards and fields to desert," said Gilmor.