JERUSALEM – Four Palestinians were killed in Gaza on Friday, including three in an explosion at a home believed to harbor a bomb workshop. Elsewhere, a Palestinian gunman died in a firefight with Israeli soldiers.
The violence fell on the ninth anniversary of the historic Sept. 13, 1993, White House handshake between the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that led to a series of peace accords.
Most Israelis now believe the agreements have lost their meaning. A poll published Friday indicated that 79 percent of Israelis believe the interim agreements, which led to Israel's withdrawal from most Palestinian population centers, are no longer valid.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said the accords are all but dead. The Palestinian leadership and Israel have traded accusations that the other has violated the accords.
In the past two years of fighting, Israeli troops hunting suspected militants have repeatedly entered areas that had been handed to Palestinian control in the accords. Since June, troops have been reoccupying most major population centers in the West Bank, in an offensive aimed at stopping attacks on Israelis.
Efforts to strike a truce have failed, but the violence has cooled in recent weeks. The last suicide bombing was carried out Aug. 4, marking the longest period of relative calm in the past two years.
On Friday, an explosion tore through a two-story house in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, killing three members of the same family and wounding four others.
One of those killed was a member of Arafat's Fatah movement, and another belonged to the militant Islamic Jihad group. Residents said they believed people inside may have been preparing a bomb that accidentally went off.
Separately, Israeli forces carried out operations in several Palestinian towns on Friday, in a continued roundup of militants and to crack down on suspected weapons-making sites.
Gunbattles between Israelis and Palestinians broke out in the Gaza town of Rafah and a nearby refugee camp on the Egyptian border. A gunman from the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militia linked to Fatah, was killed and six other people were injured, Palestinian doctors said.
Israeli forces broke into local Fatah offices, destroyed equipment and caused considerable damage, Palestinians said. The troops also destroyed six metal workshops and 20 houses, leaving families homeless, witnesses said.
"I took my five children and my wife and we spent all night in the street," said Khaled Abdullah, 34. He said his house in Rafah was destroyed.
The Israeli military said the workshops were used to manufacture rockets and mortars. On Thursday night, a Qassam rocket fired from Gaza hit a house in Saad, an Israeli village two miles from the border fence. The house was damaged, but the family was not at home and no one was hurt.
As troops pulled back, an Israeli tank ran into an armored personnel carrier, slightly injuring eight soldiers.
In the West Bank town of Hebron, Israeli forces traded fire with Palestinians and surrounded an empty building, witnesses said. Army officials denied that Israeli forces were operating in the town, but said they had arrested a Fatah leader in a nearby village.
Sixteen suspected Palestinian militants were arrested in an overnight military operation in the West Bank town of Tubas, the army said.
In Friday's poll, conducted by Market Watch and published in the Maariv daily, 80 percent of respondents said Arafat is irrelevant. The poll questioned 590 Israeli adults and quoted a 4 percentage point margin of error.