Two Militants Killed, Two IDF Troops Hurt in North Gaza Violence

Militants said to have been planting bomb; IDF demolishes arms-smuggling tunnel in Gaza; sappers defuse two large bombs near Rafah.

Two Palestinians were killed in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday in an exchange of fire with Israel Defense Forces troops, Israel Radio reported. The Palestinians were apparently attempting to plant a bomb in the area, the radio said.

The gun battle ensued after several Palestinians threw fragment grenades at the troops, according to the report.

On Wednesday night IDF troops demolished an arms-smuugling tunnel near the Rafah neighborhood in the southern Gaza Strip.

The tunnel, eight meters-deep and several hundred meters-long, connected the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian side of the border, passing under houses in the outskirts of the neighborhood.

Also Wednesday, two IDF soldiers where injured, one moderately and one lightly, when Palestinians fired an anti-tank missile at an army bulldozer operating in the northern Gaza Strip.

The incidents were among several attempted attacks on IDF troops throughout Gaza on Wednesday, a day after a Hamas suicide bomber killed a Shin Bet agent and wounded eight security officials at the Gush Katif junction in the Strip.

In central Gaza, IDF troops fired at a suspicious Palestinian car approaching troops stationed near the Netzarim settlement, Israel Radio reported. Three passengers fled the vehicle.

Troops did not open fire on the unarmed Palestinians, but discovered an RPG launcher and fragment grenades during a search of the vehicle, the radio said.

Near Rafah, in the southern part of the Strip, the radio said security forces found two large explosive devices, which sappers were defusing.

Earlier Wednesday, Palestinians opened fire on IDF troops on the Karni-Netzarim road in Gaza and fired a mortar shell at a Gaza settlement, Israel Radio reported.

There were no injuries in either incident, although a house was damaged by the mortar fire.

Officer: Nablus raid will diminish Hamas terrorThe arrest of 13 wanted Hamas members will significantly diminish the group's ability to carry out terror attacks, at least in the short term, the IDF commander of the Samaria brigade said Wednesday.

IDF troops, accompanied by at least four tanks and dozens of military vehicles, arrested the suspects in the West Bank city of Nablus before dawn Wednesday. A Palestinian man was reported lightly wounded by IDF fire.

The troops demolished a four-story house, and another house burst into flames after it was hit by a tank shell, witnesses said. The IDF imposed a curfew on two neighborhoods in the city.

The IDF spokesman said the army targeted the "terror infrastructure" in the city, which is considered a hotbed of militant activity.

The Samaria brigade commander, identified only as Col. Yuval, said the Hamas militants constituted one of the most dangerous terror cells in Nablus.

"This move overnight will disrupt in a very significant way [the cell's] ability to carry out terror attacks in the near future," he told Israel Radio.

The arrests have effectively prevented 12 or 13 terror attacks from taking place across the country, Col. Yuval said.

He said the suspects were receiving instructions from Hamas headquarters in Damascus, which was telling them to increase their activity in Nablus and throughout Israel.

Hamas may be trying to challenge Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as it appears to have done in Tuesday night's suicide bombing, for which it took responsibility. Abbas is in the midst of negotiations with armed factions of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad aimed at attaining a cease-fire agreement.

Elsewhere in the West Bank on Wednesday, IDF troops arrested a Hamas activist in a village west of Ramallah and a militant from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in central Ramallah, according to Israel Radio.