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Thousands dead in India; quake toll rapidly rising

Israelis, Palestinians make final push before Israeli election

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4:30pm ET, 4/16










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Israeli settler convoy bombed in Gaza, three injured

NETZARIM JUNCTION, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Two roadside bombs exploded next to a convoy of Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, a settlement leader said. Channel 2 television reported two soldiers were wounded, one seriously.

The convoy was accompanied by Israeli military vehicles and heading for the isolated settlement of Netzarim, south of Gaza City, said Netzarim spokesman Shlomo Kostiner.

Netzarim and the road leading to it through the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip have been constant flashpoints with assailants attacking the vehicles with firebombs and rocks.

Kostiner said the convoy was making a routine trip when two bombs exploded nearby and the vehicles were fired on. Israel television's Channel 2 said two soldiers were injured, one seriously, suffering from a head injury. The Israeli military refused to comment.

Shlomit Ziv, a settler at Netzarim, said one settler was slightly injured in the attack. She told The Associated Press that her husband was planning to take the next convoy home.

Armed convoys leave every 40 minutes to and from Netzarim, where 60 Israeli families live in the settlement atop a sandy hill. The settlers are banned from entering or leaving the settlement without a military escort.

After the attack, the Israeli military closed off the area. The road is patrolled by Israeli forces, while Palestinian police control nearby populated areas.

A Palestinian security official complained that the Israeli military kept Palestinian police away from the scene, preventing a joint investigation in violation of agreements. The official, who insisted on anonymity, said a protest would be filed with the Israelis.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak denounced the attack, Israel radio said. Barak demanded that the Palestinian Authority take steps to arrest those responsible and prevent such incidents in the future.

Palestinians demand that all Israeli settlements be removed from Gaza. Most of them are along the Mediterranean coast, but several, like Netzarim, are isolated and surrounded by Palestinian-controlled territory. Israel controls about one-third of the territory, where about 6,500 settlers live. More than one million Palestinians live in Gaza.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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