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Arafat Slams Israel for Raid, Hamas Vows Revenge (REUTERS) By Wafa Amr RAMALLAH Additional reporting by Shahdi al-Kashif 08/09/03 12:37 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3250387
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RAMALLAH (Reuters) - Palestinian President Yasser Arafat accused Israel on Saturday of threatening peace by carrying out a raid against militants, as the Islamic group Hamas vowed to avenge the deaths of two comrades.
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Two top Hamas militants and an Israeli soldier were killed in a firefight between the militants and an elite army unit that surrounded a building they were holed up in during a raid in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday.
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The violence rocked a fragile month-old cease-fire called by Palestinian militant groups and drew vows of revenge by Hamas leaders as well as condemnation by Arafat.
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"What Israel is doing is killing the entire peace process, not just destroying the truce," Arafat told reporters.
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In Gaza, Hamas leaders warned Israel the group´s armed wing would carry out an attack to avenge the Palestinian deaths on Friday, although they stopped short of calling off the truce.
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"We are still committed to the truce but we will react against the Zionist enemy crimes," senior Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi told Reuters.
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"Hamas´s military-wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, has decided to react against the Nablus crimes," he said.
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Meanwhile, Israel lodged a complaint with the United Nations after Hizbollah guerrillas fired anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs at an Israeli army post on the Israel-Lebanese border on Friday for the first time in seven months.
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Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman warned Syria and Lebanon in a letter submitted to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Israel would have "no option but to take the necessary measures to protect its citizens" unless they restrained Hizbollah.
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But Hizbollah, which is sponsored by Iran and Syria and controls south Lebanon, warned more attacks could be on the way.
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Commenting on Friday´s West Bank raid, an Israeli field commander, who could be identified under army regulations only as Colonel Harel, said the operation was aimed at arresting two senior Hamas men planning attacks on Israelis.
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Colonel Harel said troops came under fire after calling on occupants in a building to come out. Residents heeded the call; the militants did not.
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Israeli-Palestinian violence has subsided dramatically since the truce began 33 months into a Palestinian uprising against Israel in pursuit of statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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Thousands of mourners at the funerals for the Palestinians killed in Nablus on Friday called for Hamas to take revenge.
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"We want a big operation Hamas," the mourners chanted.
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Meanwhile, the United States said it protested to Lebanon and Syria about Friday´s Hizbollah attack and called for "maximum restraint" to prevent further incidents.
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"We have made clear to Lebanon and Syria our serious concern over this calculated and provocative escalation by Hizbollah," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.
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Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, ending a 22-year occupation under daily Hizbollah assault. But its soldiers remained in one small border area known as Shebaa Farms, which Hizbollah regards as Lebanese territory.
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The United Nations, which monitored the Israeli withdrawal, says it is Israeli-occupied Syrian land. (© Reuters 2003 08/09/03)
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