But Palestinian security sources said on Saturday only two fighters were killed by Israeli small arms and missile fire on the outskirts of Gush Katif, identifying them as members of Islamic Jihad. 

The Israeli occupation sources said troops and a helicopter gunship fired at fighters planting a bomb on the settlement's perimeter. 

The Palestinian fighters shot back before they were killed, wounding an Israeli soldier, the Israeli sources said.

Palestinian fighters have stepped up attacks in Gaza since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a plan to pull out troops and settlers from the coastal strip next year. 

Rafah incursion

Also on Saturday, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, announced in a statement, that its Husayn Ibayat groups attacked the Netzarim settlement with two Shahab-1 rockets.

After the blasts, which were heard in the Gaza Strip settlement, Israeli tanks launched artillery missiles.

According to the statement which was made available to Aljazeera, fighters of the al-Aqsa Brigades returned safely to their bases after the resistance operation was accomplished. 

More than 10 Israeli tanks rolled
into Rafah, south of Gaza Strip

In a separate development, more than 10 Israeli tanks with support vehicles penetrated into the southern parts of Yebna camp and al-Barahma area in Rafah, south of Gaza Strip, Aljazeera correspondent's said.  

He added that Israeli occupation forces shot at the houses of Palestinian citizens in the area, but no casualties were reported.   

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers carried out searches in homes of the Palestinian town of Jericho, witnesses said.

About a dozen Israeli army vehicles moved into the town, stopped before a row of houses and soldiers entered several of them, witnesses said.

Qalqilya blast

Later in the day, a car exploded in the West Bank killing two Palestinians and critically wounding a third, witnesses and medical sources said. 

The identities of the casualties in the blast in Qalqilya town were not immediately known. 

Dozens of Palestinian resistance fighters have been killed after bombs they were assembling or transporting exploded prematurely. 

Israel has also used air strikes and sabotage to track and assassinate leaders of resistance movements, but a military source said there were no Israeli forces in Qalqilya at the time of the car blast.