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Two Islamic Jihad activists killed in attacks


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Israeli troops killed two Islamic militants Friday during separate attempts to attack an army post and a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip.

The assailants were members of Islamic Jihad, a small group that has killed scores of Israelis in bombings and shootings in the past 29 months of fighting.

U.S. authorities on Thursday issued a 50-count indictment against eight alleged members of Islamic Jihad, four of whom were arrested in the United States. Among them was computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian, accused of operating a racketeering enterprise to support the group.

Friday's attacks in northern Gaza targeted the Jewish settlement of Dugit and the Erez industrial park.

Soldiers at a lookout near Dugit spotted a Palestinian climbing over the settlement fence near the beach, said an army commander, identified only as Col. Ofer. ``Within five minutes, troops ... overpowered him and killed him,'' the commander told Israel Radio.

Palestinian doctors said the man had been hit by 12 bullets and his lower body had been run over by a jeep.

In a second incident, a Palestinian jumped over the wall of the Erez industrial park into an abandoned parking lot, the Israeli colonel said. ``We surrounded him and called on him to surrender. In response, he threw grenades and opened fire at the troops,'' the officer said.

The Palestinian lay face down on the pavement, in a pool of blood. A bloodied grenade lay next to his foot and an assault rifle stuck out under his jacket.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for both attempted attacks.

Also Friday, thousands joined the funeral procession of Riyad Abu Zeid, a leader of the Hamas military wing who was killed in a roadside ambush by Israeli undercover troops earlier this week.

His relatives and neighbors said they were proud of Abu Zeid and wanted to avenge his death. ``Today, he is a groom, and he will surely go to paradise,'' said his wife, Umm Moussab, referring to the widely held belief in Gaza that those killed in clashes with Israelis will spend eternity in the company of 72 virgins.

Also in Gaza, the international aid group Doctors Without Borders said Israeli soldiers fired warning shots from a tank-mounted machine gun at one of its teams, even though the itinerary had been coordinated with the military.

The incident took place Wednesday near Dugit, said Olivier Maizoue, the head of the group in Israel and the Palestinian areas. Three members of the group were in or near a white car marked with a Doctors Without Borders logo and flag, Maizoue said. No one was hurt.

Maizoue said the shooting marked the third time in a month team members came under Israeli fire in Gaza, even though each trip had been coordinated with the military. He said the military has not responded to repeated complaints.

The army spokesman's office said Friday it would look into the matter.

Also Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held talks with opposition leader Amram Mitzna, head of the moderate Labor party _ their third meeting since Jan. 28 elections. Sharon is trying to persuade Mitzna to join his government, but Mitzna has said he will only do so if the prime minister takes significant steps toward resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, including dismantling some settlements.

Sharon has given no indication that he will move toward Mitzna.

Sharon, who has said he wants a long-term interim agreement with the Palestinians, was quoted Friday as saying that Israel's economy would not survive a prolonged conflict with the Palestinians.

``We will not make it. Our economy will not make it. Without a peace agreement, it will collapse,'' Sharon said, according to the Yediot Ahronot daily.
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