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May 14, 2003

Oh! Mortars. We know nothing of mortars.
We only know about the Road to peace

Israelis raid West Bank

Israeli military forces shot dead five Palestinians and injured dozens of others in clashes in Gaza and the West Bank. The latest violence in the ongoing conflict comes amid Palestinian claims that Israel is trying to sabotage a new US-led peace initiative. The bloodshed followed a Palestinian mortar bomb attack that wounded 10 Israeli soldiers.

The new Middle East peace drive appeared promising following US Secretary Colin Powell's talks last week with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbashas. The initiative appears to have had scant impact on the daily violence in the region.

Palestinian officials said Israeli undercover soldiers drove up to a Palestinian guard post in Gaza in a civilian car, sparking an exchange of fire in which two security men and an Islamic Jihad militant were killed. An Israeli military source said troops had fired on armed men moving towards the Jewish settlement of Netzarim - a frequent target of militant attacks.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned the Israeli operation in Gaza as "murder in cold blood". Mr Erekat added: "This is part of the Israeli government's rejection of the 'road map' (to peace) and an insistence on continuing on the road of conflict, war and blood".

A further three Palestinians were killed and up to 30 were injured by Israelis in separate incidents in the West Bank - including a 14-year-old boy, witnesses said. An Israeli military source said the operations were aimed at stopping mortar fire by militants.

Palestinians accept the road map as it stands but Israel does not, citing security concerns.

The plan outlines reciprocal steps leading to Palestinian statehood by 2005 in the West Bank and Gaza