GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships raided a Gaza Strip (search) town Thursday, killing three Palestinians and wounding at least nine others, witnesses said.
The raid came hours after the announcement that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (search) had died. Sporadic violence has continued in the coastal territory even though Palestinian leaders had urged the militants to scale back operations while Arafat lay dying in a Paris hospital.
In the West Bank (search), hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli cars and burned tires to vent their outrage over Arafat's death, the army said. Israeli troops used rubber-coated metal bullets and fired tear gas to break up the rally of about 400 people at Beit Umar, a village near Hebron, the army said.
Two border patrol officers were slightly wounded and seven Israeli cars were damaged, the army said.
Troops went into Sheik Ejilin, a Gaza City neighborhood near the Netzarim settlement, after spotting militants preparing to fire rockets and plant bombs directed against the Jewish settlement, the army said.
Military officials said troops hit 12 Palestinian gunmen during the operation but did not know their conditions.
Palestinian hospital officials said three bodies were evacuated from the area and 14 people were hospitalized, including a 42-year-old woman in critical condition with shrapnel from a tank shell in her head.
Two of the dead and six of the wounded were identified as militants, according to hospital officials.
Witnesses reported heavy fighting between the troops and militants from different organizations, with helicopters sporadically firing machine guns.
In Bethlehem, dozens of Palestinians heaved boulders and rocks at Israeli troops and tossed an explosive device at soldiers. Troops used rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The second demonstration occurred near Rachel's Tomb (search), the traditional burial place of the biblical matriarch in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Rocks also were thrown at Israeli cars on a road linking Jerusalem and the West Bank.