Israeli Tanks Enter Palestinian Refugee Camp Following Settler Shooting

Israeli tanks and troops entered a Palestinian refugee camp in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday, exchanging fire with gunmen, Palestinian security officials and witnesses said.

A 62-year-old bystander was wounded, apparently while watching the incursion into the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza from his window, Palestinians said.

The Israeli military said a routine operation was under way in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian security officials and residents said about 10 Israeli tanks entered the refugee camp, and soldiers searched houses.

The incursion came after a settler was shot and seriously wounded Tuesday by an infiltrator in the Kfar Darom settlement in Gaza. The militant Islamic Hammers took responsibility for the shooting.

Also Tuesday, Israel said the Shin Bet security service captured all 10 members of a cell of the militant Islamic Jihad accused of attacks in the Heron area on the West Bank. Sixteen Israelis were killed in those attacks.

The Syria-based leadership of Islamic Jihad gave the cell its orders, offering money for the purchase of weapons and materials for building bombs, said security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. The arrests of the 10 began in December and the last one was caught early Tuesday in Heron, the officials said.

Later, Israeli forces arrested a militant from the Al Aqua Martyrs Brigade in Tulkarem. The Israeli military said he was involved in planning an attack on the Israeli village of Metzer on Nov. 10, in which five people were killed.

Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad confirmed Tuesday that Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority almost $60 million in taxes collected from Palestinian laborers and businesses, the single largest payment since fighting began more than two years ago.

Of the amount, about $21 million is from money owed to the Palestinians that Israel has frozen during fighting, alleging that it is used to finance attacks. Israel transfers tax money to the Palestinian Authority according to interim peace agreements.

Meanwhile, a three-day parade of political party leaders to the official residence of Israeli President Moshe Katsav was to end Wednesday, and Katsav was to pick Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to form a new government.

The consultations were a formality after Sharon's Likud Party and its hawkish allies won a convincing victory in Jan. 28 elections.